While we’re all taught in schools that the orbits of the planets and other objects in our solar system fall into tidy elliptical patterns that are unchanging, more and more astronomical and geological evidence is pointing to the fact that this is merely a reassuring myth. Over the last several decades, more and more astronomers have published data which seem to suggest that the Solar System is more chaotic than we might think it to be, meaning planetary orbits might be less predictable than once thought.
Changes in orbits could wreak all sorts of havoc, from extreme climate changes to planetary collisions. To make this theory all the more worrisome for life here on our dying planet, researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Northwestern University have just published the results of a study which seems to confirm the “chaotic Solar System” model.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers examined 90-million-year-old layers of sedimentary rock in Colorado, searching for fluctuations in the levels of certain minerals which correspond to various climate patterns. While other studies have examined various geological markers to support the chaotic Solar System theory, the researchers claim that this study is conclusive proof of unstable planetary orbits:
Other studies have suggested the presence of chaos based on geologic data. But this is the first unambiguous evidence, made possible by the availability of high-quality, radioisotopic dates and the strong astronomical signal preserved in the rocks.
According to their data, the interaction of Earth’s and Mars’ gravity as they pass one another causes the planets’ orbits to gradually become altered over millions of years. According to lead author Stephen Meyers, these changes in orbit can account for many of the drastic changes in Earth’s climate throughout our planet’s history:
The impact of astronomical cycles on climate can be quite large. Astronomical theory permits a very detailed evaluation of past climate events that may provide an analog for future climate.
So Mars’ gravity is behind climate change, eh? Well, at least we have an easy solution: nuke Mars into space dust. That’ll teach it to mess with our orbit. What could possibly go wrong?