III. Ecosmos: A Revolutionary Fertile, Habitable, Solar-Bioplanet, Incubator Lifescape
I. Our EarthMost Distinction: A Rarest Planetary Confluence of Life in Person Favorable Conditions
Batygin, Konstantin and Greg Laughlin. Jupiter’s Decisive Role in the Inner Solar System’s Early Evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112/4214, 2015. As the rush of Kepler satellite findings become assimilated, radical new understandings of near and far stellar-planetary topological and dynamical arrays are being realized. Here Cal Tech and UC Santa Cruz astronomers report another way that our home system is unusual because this gas giant served to sweep away an original phase of close in worlds that often wreak instabilities. A commentary in the same issue by Smadar Naoz notes that our “unique” arrangement is a “second generation” sequence. Along with nine planets in the same plane with circular orbits for over a billion years, it is dawning that we Earthlings abide in a rare, especially conducive, habitable zone.
The Solar System is an unusual member of the galactic planetary census in that it lacks planets that reside in close proximity to the Sun. In this work, we propose that the primordial nebula-driven process responsible for retention of Jupiter and Saturn at large orbital radii and sculpting Mars’ low mass is also responsible for clearing out the Solar System’s innermost region. Cumulatively, our results place the Solar System and the mechanisms that shaped its unique orbital architecture into a broader, extrasolar context. (Significance)
Batygin, Konstantin, et al. Born of Chaos. Scientific American. May, 2016. Astrophysicists Batygin, Gregory Laughlin and Alessandro Morbidelli (search) write a popular article about the dynamic formation of the solar system and of our planet Earth just now being reconstructed, which all leads to an auspicious realization. In this post-Kepler satellite and worldwide collaborative era, it has been found that prolific arrays of orbital objects typically exhibit a contingent jumble of small rocky to giant gaseous planets in every which disordered location, especially close in to the host star. But our home solar community has a rare, well-spaced procession from one small Mercury to Venus, Earth and Mars onto larger outer worlds. Over its history, the planet Jupiter first moved toward the sun which cleaned out planetesimals and super-Earths, except for Mercury. It then tacked outward which led to further destructions or expulsions. See also Jupiter’s Decisive Role in the Inner Solar System’s Early Evolution by Batygin and Laughlin in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (112/4214, 2015) and the third quote.
In Brief: A wealth of new evidence from computer simulations as well as observations of planets throughout the galaxy is revealing new details of our solar system’s dynamic and violent history. The solar system’s configuration of small inner rocky worlds and large outer giants is anomalous in comparison with most other planetary systems, which have different architectures. (30)
Beech, Martin. On Special Epochs, the Copernican Principle and Future Astronomy. Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. April, 2015. The University of Regina, Saskatchewan astronomer and author (search) takes issue with the popular overuse of this “principle” which has come to designate a steady historic removal of human beings, planet Earth, its solar system, and even the Milky Way from any central, unique location or import. As a starter Nikolai himself would not agree nor would he approve this version in his name. From circa 2015, the latest cosmological findings, not possible earlier, are in fact finding people, bioplanet, sun, and galaxy to be unusually favorable in orbital geometries and benign duration. See also Since When Was the Sun a Typical Star? by MB in this journal for December 2011. Here is one more instance of a cosmic paradigm shift in our midst (e.g. Giulio Tononi, Cadell Last, many others) from denunciations of human and universe to realizations of a phenomenal place and purpose.
As described in an earlier article (Beech 2011), for example the blind acceptance of the Copernican Principle has resulted in the entirely wrong concept being propagated within popuar astronomy texts that the Sun and Solar System are in every way average, even bland and/or typical. They patently are not average in many demonstrable ways, and our seemingly modern fear of allowing for special circumstances and the existence of unique structures, events, epochs and has, in effect, led our collective understanding astray. Not only, in fact, is the Solar System located at a very specific and special place within our galaxy, we also live in a very special epoch within the history of the Universe. Indeed, we live in the epoch in which humanity is able to determine and at least partially comprehend the full scale of the observable Universe. (63-64)
Bi, Jiaqing, et al. GW Ori: Interactions Between a Triple-star System and its Circumtriple Disk in Action. Astrophysical Journal Letters. May, 2020. (arXiv:2004.03135.) Twenty astronomers with postings in Canada, Japan, and the USA describe the first experimental presence of a three sun array along with signs of dynamic movements. This finding of multiple stellar formations that may act in unison then implies many more out there, with additional features. Our interest is in further evidence of how vicarious celestial phenomena can be so to show how special our home solar system with a habitable bioworld able to learn all this appears to be.
Bonavita, Elenia, et al. The Impact of Tidal Disruption Events on Galactic Habitability. arXiv:2008.09988. University of Rome and Florida Institute of Technology astroresearchers including Amedeo Balbi and Manasvi Lingam add another impediment to planetary habitations by pointing out that perilous radiations which seem to suffuse interstellar domains could be quite deleterious to living systems. See also The Habitability of the Galactic Bulge at 2008.07586.
Tidal Disruption Events (TDEs) are characterized by the emission of a short burst of high-energy radiation. We analyze the cumulative impact of TDEs on galactic habitability using the Milky Way as a proxy. We show that X-rays and extreme ultraviolet (XUV) radiation emitted during TDEs can cause hydrodynamic escape and instigate biological damage. In particular, we show that planets within distances of ∼0.1-1 kpc could lose Earth-like atmospheres over the age of the Earth. We conclude by highlighting potential ramifications of TDEs and argue that they should be factored into analyses of inner galactic habitability. (Abstract)
Boyle, Rebecca. The Best Neighborhoods for Starting a Life in the Galaxy. Quanta. January 24, 2024. A science writer about astronomic advances (search) installs her latest notice that whole spiral galaxies are now being studied with regard to their relative habitability. It appears so far that certain regions or arm locales are more favorable than others. A main source is Jeremy Niesen’s group in Denmark, see Planet formation throughout the Milky Way in the context of Galactic chemical evolution at arXiv:2398.15504. See also In the Milky Way’s Stars, a History of Violence by RB (Sept. 28, 2023) for an earlier perception. So still another variable influence on Earth’s long fortuitous trajectory to reach a collective retrospective from whence we came can be added.
To harbor life a planet must orbit a star that is relatively calm and stable. The planet’s orbit should be nearly circular for similar warmth throughout its year. And it must be not too hot, lest any surface water boil off; not too cold, lest that water remain locked in ice; but just right. Among the roughly 5,000 known exoplanets, no star systems look quite like our own, and most of them don’t even look like each other. But scientists are now increasingly subjecting the entire galaxy to similar scrutiny. In the same way that continents host distinct flora and fauna, certain regions of the galaxy could be home for different populations of stars and planets.
Broad, William. In Secrets of Coral Spawning, Hope for Endangered Reefs. New York Times. June 21, 2016. We note this Science Times piece about large coral reefs which engage in an annual procreative event of spewing trillions of eggs at once into the ocean so that at least some may become fertile and grow anew. This is a stretch, but might one then imagine a coral cosmos whence trillions of vicarious bioworlds might take on a similar ovular guise, so that a few fittest might succeed?
Bryson, Steve, et al. The Occurrence of Rocky Habitable Zone Planets around Solar-like Stars from Kepler Data. Astrophysical Journal. Online November 5, 2020. This document with some 46 coauthors from the USA and beyond is the main report from the copious Kepler planet hunter project launched in 2009. While NASA statistical estimates may seem to allow millions of potentially habitably worlds, as per the second quote, it is said to be too early to firm up. In addition, no real Earth analogs have yet been found. See also Looking for Another Earth? Here are 300 Million, Maybe by Dennis Overbye in the New York Times for Nov. 5, 2020.
We present occurrence rates for rocky planets in the habitable zones (HZ) of main-sequence dwarf stars based on the Kepler DR25 planet candidate catalog and Gaia-based stellar properties. We provide the first analysis in terms of star-dependent instellation flux, which allows us to track HZ planets. These bounds reflect two extreme assumptions about the extrapolation of completeness beyond orbital periods where DR25 completeness data are available. The large uncertainties are due to the small number of detected small HZ planets. We also present occurrence rates for various stellar populations and planet size ranges. (Abstract excerpt)
Burov, Alexey and Lev Burov. Genesis of a Pythagorean Universe. arXiv:1411.7304. We report this posting from a Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory physicist and a Scientific Humanities, San Francisco, imagineer because it offers a unique perspective on the breadth and depth of cosmic reality. After noting the fine-tuned Anthropic Principle fades into a multiverse chaosogenesis, it is proposed that nature’s most awesome aspect ought to be our very human ability to learn and describe everything from bosons to universes. This vista then grants phenomenal people an intentional, central role as Cosmic Observers.
Calder, Nigel. Spaceships of the Mind. New York: Viking, 1978. As I revise some four decades later in 2021, the British science communicator presciently considers the post-Copernican options of an alien, moribund universe (which has lately become an epitaph) or one which innately grows in vital cognizant knowledge and galactic civilizations by way of the cocreative activity of aware, intelligent beings.
In talking with scientists about the human niche within the vast and ancient universe revealed by modern astronomy, I detected very different kinds of ‘intuitive feelings about nature.’ Some saw us diminished: all we could do was try to snatch a little dignity in cultivating our planet, and draw a little pride and rationality from our understanding of the universe. Another feeling reflected strongly in this book, was that human beings had the collective knowledge and skill to start transforming the universe to their own purposes. (13)
Canales, Manuel, et al.
One Strange Rock.
As a companion article for a 10 part TV series with this title, senior editors MC and Matthew Chwastyk and science writer Eve Conant compile a list of thirteen reasons why this Earth, upon which a planetary sapience has evolved able to do this, appears to be the successful outcome of many especially fortuitous astronomic, geologic, and biotic conditions and event.
Earth is well equipped as a planet and ideally placed in our solar system and galaxy to support life as we know it. The product of some 4.6 billion years of cosmic construction, oru planet is flush with life thanks to a fortuitous set of conditions, from the optimal chemical makeup of our planetary core to our safe distance from the hidden black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Canup, Robin, et al. Origin of the Moon. arXiv:2103.02015. Eleven astro-researchers based in Colorado, Texas, California, Illinois, New York and the Czech Republic gather and discuss the latest global findings about how the especially suitable satellite that graces our night skies came to form so neatly where it best belongs. Its presence has been a vital part of early conditions which helped get life going on its way to our curious selves.
The Earth-Moon system is unusual in several respects. The Moon is roughly 1/4 the radius of the Earth - a larger satellite-to-planet size ratio than all known satellites other than Pluto's Charon. The Moon has a tiny core, perhaps with only ~1% of its mass, in contrast to Earth whose core contains nearly 30% of its mass. The Earth-Moon system has a high total angular momentum, implying a rapidly spinning Earth when the Moon formed. In addition, the early Moon was hot and at least partially molten with a deep magma ocean. Identification of a model for lunar origin that can satisfactorily explain all of these features has been the focus of decades of research. (Abstract excerpt)