A New Wobbly World

This column has traditionally been used to talk about different parts of the world we live in (namely Earth), the features of different countries, and such. However, today, I take it a step further and talk about something interesting outside of our planet.

Astronomers have recently discovered that planets that wobble — meaning there is a tilt in their orbit — may be more conducive to supporting life than initially thought. For example, there are 2 planets around the star Upsilon Andromedae that are inclined at 30 degrees to each other. Such planets may spin around like a top, or lean one way and then another. How are these planets better than the stationary consistent ones that we are used to, though?

For one, because they tilt so much, their surfaces are exposed to even heating from the sun. The poles have a chance to point at the sun, thus melting their ice caps and ensuring liquid water on the planet’s surface. These planets can be distant from their suns but still contain liquid water and sufficient heating to support life. If we take such wobbling planets into account, we can double the number of potentially habitable planets in the galaxy.

Of course, these are just preliminary findings. For one, the study mentioned nothing about air, though air should not be affected by a planet’s revolution. In addition, even though there is sufficient heat to ensure liquid water, we don’t know just how much heat that is. After all, 0 degrees Celsius is enough to melt ice. Imagine a world constantly at about 0 degrees Celsius. Sure, we get water, but we will need a lot more than that to thrive. Coming from a part of the world that constantly gets the sun (at the expense of the polar regions), I don’t know how I would live in a place that might resemble Greenland.

But maybe I’m thinking too much. After all, it’s good that we theoretically have more choices to consider, if we ever do by any chance blow up our planet.

Imagine us teaching our children in the future that “love makes the world go wobbly”.

For the actual article, it can be found at http://www.forbes.com/sites/bridaineparnell/2014/04/16/drunkenly-wobbling-planets-could-make-good-homes-for-humans/

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