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Why Jupiter Doesn't Help

When astronomers used to search for solar systems with planets that might harbor life, they looked for a large planet in the outer orbit, like Jupiter, because they thought these planets absorbed the blows from incoming space rocks that could kill off all life on smaller planets in interior orbits. But now they know that isn't true.

New computer calculations show that while it is true that Jupiter keeps some comets from hitting the earth, it ALSO sends almost as many comets towards us as it deflects, because its large mass actually attracts incoming objects. In BBC News, Liz Seward quotes Jonathan Horner as saying, "Rather than it being a clear cut case that Jupiter acts as a shield, it seems that Jupiter almost gives with one hand and takes away with the other."

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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