VICE - What if a beefed-up version of Earth were suddenly dropped into the solar system between Mars and Jupiter? That’s the mind-boggling question posed in a new study that seeks to understand how “super-Earths,” a class of planets that is very common in other star systems, might affect our own solar neighborhood.
The thought experiment is not just about speculatively shaking up our solar system, though that is certainly part of the fun. On a broader level, though, these imaginary super-Earths can “provide important insights into the question of how typical our solar system architecture and evolution is compared with other planetary systems,” according to a recent study published in the Planetary Science Journal authored by Stephen Kane, a professor of planetary astrophysics at University of California Riverside.
“There are many planets in-between the size of Earth and Neptune—something which is maybe twice the size of the Earth—and we call these planets super-Earths,” Kane said in a call with Motherboard. “Because we don't have an analog to that kind of planet within our solar system, it has been a source of great lament amongst planetary scientists and exoplanet folks who wish that we did have a super-Earth, say between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter” that “we could study in detail.”
“This comes up so often in conversation—wishing that we had a super-Earth within the solar system—that I really wanted to explore this and say, ‘okay, let's just say our wish came true,’” he continued. “What would that look like? And what would the consequences of that be?”