New Study Reveals Jupiter Is Hurling Asteroids Towards Earth

Previously, scientists thought that due to its large size (it’s the biggest planet in the solar system), Jupiter helps keep asteroids away from our general direction, earning it the nickname the “protector planet.” However, computer simulations recently found that it’s actually doing the exact opposite of what we thought it’s doing.

Protector Planet

According to data from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Jupiter’s gravity may not be sucking away asteroids from Earth collision. Instead, it may be using it to actually nudge some of them towards the direction of the sun, where they can possibly hit us or collide with us along the way.

Previously, the theory goes that the planet supposedly acts like a giant space shield that uses its mass to suck or even deflect dangerous debris. However, space critics are slowly seeing this theory fall out of favor.

“Actually, I wouldn’t say that it’s in jeopardy, I would say that it has been laid to rest. Our simulations show that Jupiter is just as likely to send comets at Earth as deflect them away, and we’ve seen that in the real solar system,” Kevin Grazier, a space expert who published several papers explaining that Jupiter is actually a “sniper rather than a shield,” said.

Moreover, the paper by Grazier and his colleagues also said that the planet can also act like a shield at the same time since it picks up debris and flings it back out.

“It takes things that threaten Earth and flings them away, clearing space near our planet. So in that sense, it is something of a shield. On the flip side, though, it takes things that come nowhere near Earth and flings them our way, meaning it is also a threat. To find out which side is more important to determine whether Jupiter is truly friend or foe you need to look at the story in some detail. We already know that Earth is in the cosmic cross-hairs,” Jonti Horner, an astronomer at the University of Southern Queensland, said.

Nonetheless, some astronomers believe Earth is habitable partly because Jupiter’s gravity still protects us. ­

Jupiter ALMA image showing the distribution of ammonia gas below Jupiter's cloud deck. ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), I de Pater/UC Berkeley et al.; NRAO/AUI NSF, S. Dagnello