Earth`s orbit would have been stable without moon

Scientists have long believed that without the moon`s stabilizing gravitational influence, variations in Earth`s tilt would have caused climate change.

Last Updated: Aug 09, 2011, 14:34 PM IST

London: The gravitational influence of our moon helps stabilize our own planet. But life may have been possible without it, according to a new research.

Scientists have long believed that without the moon`s stabilizing gravitational influence, variations in Earth`s tilt would have caused climate change too dynamic for complex life to evolve.

A new computational analysis, however, shows that a moonless Earth would still have swings in its tilt but the influence of Jupiter and other factors would limit the variations to about 10 degrees in either direction.

“It`s a very intriguing result. It`s provocative,” Richard Vondrak, lead scientist with NASA`s ongoing Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, told Discovery News.

“On the moon we can find important evidence and clues of what happened to not only to the moon, but also to the Earth-moon system over the last 4.5 billion years,” said Vondrak, a planetary scientist with NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The study also showed that if Earth revolved around the sun in the opposite direction, called a retrograde orbit, it wouldn`t need a moon at all to have a climate about as stable as it has today. Likewise, a Jupiter about half the distance to Earth as its present location would have had a similar steading hand, Barnes added.

The findings are causing extrasolar planet hunters to revise their thinking on what constitutes a habitable planet.

“We think that at least 80 or 90 percent of planets out there statistically won`t even require a moon” to have a stable climate, Barnes said.

The study will be published in the journal Icarus.

ANI