This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Life on Alien Planets May Not Require a Large Moon After All

alt text
Earth and Moon. Credit: NASA

Ever since a study conducted back in 1993, it has been proposed that in order for a planet to support more complex life, it would be most advantageous for that planet to have a large moon orbiting it, much like the Earth’s moon. Our moon helps to stabilize the Earth’s rotational axis against perturbations caused by the gravitational influence of Jupiter. Without that stabilizing force, there would be huge climate fluctuations caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis swinging between about 0 and 85 degrees.

But now that belief is being called into question thanks to newer research, which may mean that the number of planets capable of supporting complex life could be even higher than previously thought.

Since planets with relatively large moons are thought to be fairly rare, that would mean most terrestrial-type planets like Earth would have either smaller moons or no moons at all, limiting their potential to support life. But if the new research results are right, the dependence on a large moon might not be as important after all. “There could be a lot more habitable worlds out there,” according to Jack Lissauer of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who leads the research team.

Read on

TAGGED: BIOLOGY, SCIENCE, SPACE


RELATED CONTENT

Nasa's Curiosity rover zaps Mars rock

Jonathan Amos - BBC News Comments

Pew pew pew pew

Sun Is Roundest Natural Object Known

Dave Mosher - National Geographic Comments

The sun is the roundest natural object ever precisely measured, astronomers say.

Book written in DNA code

Geraint Jones - The Guardian Comments

Scientists who encoded the book say it could soon be cheaper to store information in DNA than in conventional digital devices

Prisoners pitch in to save endangered...

Ed Yong - Nature News Comments

Under the supervision of guards and graduate students, a small group of prisoners is breeding the beautiful orange-and-white insects in a greenhouse outside the prison. They have even carried out research to show what plants the butterfly prefers to lay its eggs on.

U.S. Should Adopt Higher Standards for...

- - Scientific American Comments

Teachers, scientists and policymakers have drafted ambitious new education standards. All 50 states should adopt them

17-year-old girl builds artificial...

John Roach - NBC News Comments

An artificial “brain” built by a 17-year-old whiz kid from Florida is able to accurately assess tissue samples for signs of breast cancer, providing more confidence to a minimally invasive procedure.

MORE

MORE BY PAUL SCOTT ANDERSON

MORE

Comments

Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment