Have you ever thought about what will happen to your Solar System’s “perfect harmony” if it loses a planet?
It’s all about gravity. Every object that has some mass attracts other objects because of its gravitational force. The larger the mass – or the shortest the distance between objects – the greater the force it has… So, how would the Solar System change if any of the planets (or the Moon!) suddenly disappeared? And how life on Earth would be affected?
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Check here all TIMESTAMPS + full TRANSCRIPT !
00:29 — Mercury
01:15 — Venus
02:04 — Mars
02:58 — Jupiter
04:16 — Saturn
05:02 — Uranus
05:46 — Neptune
06:43 — BONUS: The Moon
I’ll start with the planet closest to the Sun… Mercury. Oh, it’s so small. 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 (80.5 million kilometers), 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…
It’s the hottest planet in our solar system. One day here is almost 117 Earth days. What if it disappeared? 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.
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. But 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! Let’s get this giant out of the system. Uh-oh, I think we’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.
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, unless we make the entire planet disappear right now… 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.
Uranus is massive as well, the 3rd largest planet in the solar system. And it’s gone… but 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)!
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 we’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. Anyway, 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?
- THE MOON
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!