HomeArticlesWhat If Just One Planet Disappeared from the Solar System
What If Just One Planet Disappeared from the Solar System
December 7, 2019
Whazzup? My name’s Zid, and I’m from a
planet in a place you call the Andromeda Galaxy. I’m in high school, and I have this assignment
to find out what will happen to your solar system’s “perfect harmony” if it loses
a planet! So, I poof one of yours away with this ray blaster and track any changes. Don’t
worry, I’ll put them back! Sort of. So, let’s give it a shot! I’ll start with the planet closest to the
Sun – Mercury, right? Oh, it’s so small, I nearly missed it! Here we go! Ok, with Mercury
gone, how’s Earth looking? Hmm, no changes in the solar system. I saw that coming. It’s
all about gravity. Every object that has some mass attracts other objects because of its
gravitational force. The larger the mass, the greater the force it has. Mercury is the
smallest planet in the solar system, so it’s not too massive in space terms. The second
important factor is the distance between the objects. At 50 million miles away, Mercury
is no doubt far from Earth, so the gravitational force between the two of them isn’t that
strong. Ok, let’s put Mercury back and move on to… Venus! It’s the hottest planet in yourc
solar system. One day here is almost 117 Earth days. I’ll try the blue button this time
– oh, did you see that? It just froze and broke into pieces! And … again, nothing
really changed that much. Well, except you, Earthling, just lost the 2nd brightest object
to light up the night sky…2nd to the Moon, of course. I suppose that’s why they call
Venus the Evening Star! Looks like it got way darker after sunset than it used to be.
Alright, I’ll reassemble Venus now, and head to your home planet! Mwahaha! Earth – the one floating rock in the system
that’s in that precious “Habitable Zone” – the perfect distance from your star to
sustain life. Hey, I was just kidding! I’m obviously not going to poof Earth away, so
let’s head to the Red Planet! Mars – I know humans are planning to send
a mission there. Would you personally want to go? Tell me in the comments below! Let’s
see what will happen when I spin the Red Planet so fast that it shoots out of the solar system!
Bye, Mars! And no significant changes again. This might be good for Earth in a way. There’s
a massive asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids, as you know, aren’t Earth’s
best friends. Jupiter usually holds them together with its strong gravity, but from time to
time, they break free and start moving toward the Sun. No surprise really, since its gravitational
pull is impressive. Mars also has gravity to boast and acts somewhat like a slingshot
that speeds up asteroids in the direction of Earth. So, no Mars – no slingshot, and
the chances of the Blue Planet getting hit by an asteroid go down! Finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for!
Time to experiment with the largest planet in your solar system – Jupiter! It weighs
3 times more than all its neighboring planets combined! Hmm, how am I going to get this
giant out of the system? I know! I’ll use the Shrink Ray and make it 2 billion times
smaller first. Now I can just throw it like a baseball!
… Uh-oh, I think I’ve made a huge mistake!
With its massive gravitational force, Jupiter has protected Earth from asteroids and other
space debris over the past 4½ billion years! Now the sun’s gravitational pull is sending
all that stuff toward the inner planets, and that includes Earth! There will also be some
small changes in the orbits of other planets, but that would be some thousands of years
later. For now, I gotta figure out a way to get Jupiter back before the Earth is doomed!
Maybe this button? No, ok, this one? I’ll just push all of them…Ah, brace for impact!!!
… Phew! Whatever I did, it worked! The Giant
is now resting peacefully back in its place, and Earth is saved! Sorry about that – must’ve
given you a real scare! I’ll try to be more careful with the rest of the Gas Giants… It’s time for Saturn. You can’t mistake
it for any other planet thanks to those gorgeous rings! Scientists say they’ll disappear
one day as Saturn’s immense gravity pulls them down in an icy rain. But that won’t
be until 300 million years from now, so no worries. Hmm, I guess I’ll have to push
the red button for this one. Bam, and it’s gone! Such a massive planet, the 2nd largest
in the solar system, can’t be gone with no consequences. Look at Jupiter and Uranus!
Their orbits have slightly shifted. Other than that, I don’t see any changes to the
other planets. Saturn is just too far to influence them. That’s good! Wouldn’t want another
close call like what happened when I took Jupiter away! Uranus is massive as well, the 3rd largest
planet in the solar system. I’ll try this super powerful space lasso to move it out
of the way – got it. Now, I’ll just throw it out of the system. And … nothing so far.
Looks like it’s the same story as it was with Saturn – Uranus is so far away from
the inner four planets that its disappearance has no effect on them whatsoever. But I can
see that it did mess things up a bit among the outer planets. Alas, we’ve come to the last planet, unless
you’re on Team Pluto! Sorry, but I’m gonna go with NASA on its status and exclude it
from today’s experiment on your happy neighborhood of planets! Anyway, it’s Neptune’s turn!
Beyond it, you’ve got the Kuiper Belt. It’s a donut-shaped region of icy objects and a
ton of dwarf planets like Pluto. Neptune is so close to the outer edge of the solar system
that I’ll just kick it out. Whoa, look at the Kuiper Belt – it’s going crazy! Without
Neptune’s gravitational pull keeping things stable, orbits are crossing, and celestial
bodies are crashing into each other! Check it out – Pluto’s orbit is misshapen now
too! Neptune pretty much controls it, as well. But it’s too far away from Earth to affect
it in any way. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to little Pluto, so let’s put
the 8th planet back where it belongs! But I’m not ready to finish the experiment
just yet! I need to find something that would really affect life on Earth. The Sun is the
obvious answer, but the mess and chaos from its disappearance would be too massive and
irreversible, so I’ll leave it where it is. What about the Moon, though? I’ve always
had this secret dream to turn it into Swiss cheese and bite off a piece. It’s time!
Yum! …Oh, my! What just happened to the Earth’s axis? It’s so tilted, even more
than it was before! The weather down there has gone wild too – there are no more seasons
at all, and new ice ages are on their way! The ocean tides have become much lower than
they used to be. And is the planet starting to spin faster? Yep, the day now lasts only
6 to 12 hours because there’s no more pull of the moon to slow down the Earth’s rotation.
There are no more lunar or solar eclipses to watch. And the nights are so dark with
nothing but billions of stars and Venus (which together are still way dimmer than the Moon)
to light the sky up. None of this sounds good for life on Earth, so I’ll de-cheesify your
Moon and put it back where it was! It looks like out of all the planets in your
sun’s complex system, only Jupiter’s disappearance would be a major problem for Earth. So I guess
it’s true what they say: the solar system really is a delicate and harmonious balance! Hey, if you learned something new today, then
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