Born of Earth and Jupiter – a #poem by Kate Rauner

zeiss projector

Zeiss projectors, like this one at Kiev Planetarium, allow planetarium visitors to see a scientist’s view of the solar system and the universe.

Two thousand planets have been found
By our current generation.
Five hundred systems, like our own,
Escaped their sun’s damnation.
Most planets are much closer
To their stars and therefore hotter,
With a thousand times thicker air
Than the Sun’s rocky daughters.
And super-Earths are common,
Ten times larger than our own.
Perhaps with days that equal years,
So different from our home.
Most gaseous giant planets
Orbit their stars nearer.
Why we have no super-Earth
At last emerges clearer.
The proto-Jupiter that formed,
To proto-Earth was hostile.
And, five billion years ago,
It stole away our volatiles.
It scrambled inner rocky worlds
And smashed the proto-Earth to bits;
Tossed half of it into the Sun,
The rest then reformed planets.
This left our world, our remnant Earth,
Thinly veiled in wispy air.
Self-organizing, growing life
Could then arise and evolve there.
Surviving heat and pressures vast,
Life on extra-solar worlds
May not resemble any forms
That upon our Earth unfurled.
We may not discern our distant kin
Nor understand life’s game.
It’s hard enough to love our own
And we are all the same.

Kevin J. Walsh and his colleagues detail their findings this week in the journal Nature. space.com. “A wandering Jupiter may have wreaked havoc on the large inner planets of our early solar system, leaving behind an apparently rare configuration of planets.” [csmonitor.com] Whether that rareness holds up as we develop way to discover smaller planets remains to be seen.

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