In coming years, the first truly Earth-like planets will be discovered orbiting other stars, and the search for signs of life on these worlds will begin. However, such observations will be hugely time-consuming and costly, and so it will be important to determine which of those planets represent the best prospects for life elsewhere. One of the key factors in such a decision will be the climate variability of the planet in question - too chaotic a climate might render a planet less promising as a target for our initial search for life elsewhere. On the Earth, the climate of the last few million years has been dominated by a series of glacial and interglacial periods, driven by periodic variations in the Earth's orbital elements and axial tilt. These Milankovitch cycles are driven by the gravitational influence of the other planets, and as such are strongly dependent on the architecture of the Solar system. Here, we present the first results of a study investigating the influence of the orbit of Jupiter on the Milankovitch cycles at Earth - a first step in developing a means to characterise the nature of periodic climate change on planets beyond our Solar system.
|Proceedings of the 13th Australian Space Science Conference
|Published - 27 Jan 2014