Story by Mark McKee • Yesterday 10:08 PM
Space is a terrifying place; with NASA discovering the vast nothingness of an environment that is too cold to survive in one direction and too hot to survive in the other, we live in a delicate balance. According to Vice, Stephen Kane, a professor of planetary astrophysics at the University of California Riverside, has engaged in a thought experiment that posits the destruction of our world by the addition of what is called Super-Earths.
Kane asks what would happen if a Super-Earth, a planet that is anywhere from one and a half to ten times the size of our world, was suddenly dropped into our solar system between Mars and Jupiter. With our planet placed in the only place in the entire star system (just close enough to be heated but not so close as to be superheated), it would throw off the system’s delicate balance and end life as we know it. While it sounds like the plot of a Halle Berry science-fiction movie, Kane assures us that it isn’t entirely ludicrous to think about.
The study showed that bringing such a massive planet into our system would create a handful of possibilities, none of which end well for human life. The first is the possibility that the Super-Earth would push our planet into the sun, and our star would presumably swallow it whole without hardly a moment for us to realize what is happening. The kind of moment that would make all of us wish Superman were real.
The second possibility is that the sizeable celestial body would push our Earth in the opposite direction, sending it hurtling out into the depth of space. Such a move would create the opposite problem of the sun, where instead of burning to a crisp in a matter of minutes, we would be tossed out into the interstellar medium. Of course, the opposite of burning to a crisp is freezing to death, turning the Earth into a version of the Dennis Quaid movie, The Day After Tomorrow.
The third possible repercussion of a Super-Earth being dropped in our laps could have two outcomes that would be devastating to human life: an irregular orbit around our sun. The first is putting us on a collision course with another planet, the kind of scenario that even a shuttle mission with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck couldn’t save us from. The second is a weather pattern that would cause extraordinarily long and cold nights or winters, followed by searing days or summers, similar to Mercury or Venus.
Of course, Kane believes that the Super-Earth, which is relatively common in other star systems, would be nice to study, but wishing one was close enough is dangerous. While they may be the kind of place we could legitimately move our civilization to in the case of a world-ending event, it would be unfortunate if it showed up as the event that ended the Earth in the first place.