Life may not depend on planet having a large moon

Via Universe Today, some news regarding the long-held belief that a stable axial tilt requires a large enough moon to provide stabilization — a study suggests it’s less necessary than previously believed.

Ever since a study conducted back in 1993, it has been proposed that in order for a planet to support more complex life, it would be most advantageous for that planet to have a large moon orbiting it, much like the Earth’s moon. Our moon helps to stabilize the Earth’s rotational axis against perturbations caused by the gravitational influence of Jupiter. Without that stabilizing force, there would be huge climate fluctuations caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis swinging between about 0 and 85 degrees.

But now that belief is being called into question thanks to newer research, which may mean that the number of planets capable of supporting complex life could be even higher than previously thought.

Anything that widens the scope of potential planets where life might have arisen is welcome news. We’re finding new exoplanets every damn day nowadays, so the search for extraterrestrial life-harboring planets is simply a matter of time, I’m willing to wager.

Life may not depend on planet having a large moon

3 thoughts on “Life may not depend on planet having a large moon

  1. 1

    That we have a single moon which rotates at the same speed it orbits (so that it always has the same side facing us) and which takes up a nearly identical angular segment in the sky as our sun… that all seems like a big coincidence, and I can’t shake the impression that maybe that has something to do with enabling the development of intelligent life. But maybe it’s all just coincidence anyway 🙂

    One thing is for sure, our moon has some unusual yet beautiful and fascinating properties. If those properties aren’t required for intelligent life, we certainly are lucky to have them!

  2. 2

    In high school, I wrote a short story about looking across the expanse of space and wondering if someone was looking back at the narrator, where the “twist” was that it was taking place on a planet with a different lunar configuration — two moons, both tidally locked to the planet, one orbiting faster than the other, causing tidal extremes when they were conjunctioned. The alien speculating on other life wondered if the moons were a necessary component for life elsewhere in the universe, because it was the only example of life they knew of at the time.

    It’s something like wondering if the puddle’s shape was somehow important in being perfectly formed to contain your water-ness, in Douglas Adams’ parable.

  3. 3

    Should we really go looking for alien life though? You know if they find it they’re just going to become the evil foreigner coming to take your job and impose their crazy superstitions on us.

    Hell it’ll happen if they’re single celled organisms, after all they’d still be more suited to the job than the current republican presidential candidates…

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