If Earth had Jupiters orbit how would it affect Earth's conditions? Earth has taken 5 years to drift from Earths current orbit to Jupiters orbit. Earth is on the complete opposite side of the sun to Jupiter and is travelling at the same speed so they won't collide. What would change on earth and how long until the effects become noticeable?

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    $\begingroup$ Earth would have to be on a Lagrangian Point. Just a small detail to add to any answers. I think six months to Jupiter's orbit is quite a small time for it to be gentle on Earth, though. Like many XKCD'ean "what if" scenarios we get here in Worldbuilding, everyone would die™. $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2016 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan yeah I will change that to like 5 years $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2016 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan I wasn't sure what time would be good time $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2016 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ Now that you changed that, I actually love this question. There is an hypothesis that the planets in our solar system didn't start out in their current positions. I would love to know, from the answers, how long it would take for everyone to die if the Earth started moving to a higher orbit really slowly. $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2016 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ Can I send this question to XKCD? I wanna add a twist to it: how slowly would Earth have to go for humanity to survive? $\endgroup$ Jul 5, 2016 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


Many things could be affected by moving Earth out to Jupiter's orbit. Among these:

  • Earth would become considerably colder -- perhaps too cold for life (as it exists on Earth) to survive, perhaps excepting extremophiles. Change would be noticed very quickly.
  • Tides would be considerably smaller. Currently, even with our large moon, the sun contributes to about 44% of our tidal forces. If earth was moved outward, this effect would considerably drop, and the tides would be a lot smaller. Change may be noticed quickly, but only by those near bodies of water.
  • Things would be considerably darker. Jupiter is pretty far out. Because of the inverse square law, things would get exponentially darker the farther out you go. Keep in mind that this won't make the surface pitch black even during the day, but you would see the difference.

Everyone would freeze. Average temperatures on Mars are about –67° F, to move a planet even further from the sun, to Jupiter’s orbit would make it even colder. (However Earth’s thicker atmosphere might mitigate the effect slightly). Barring any stress from the actual movement to the new orbit itself, Earth would probably turn into an ice world. Europa is a good model. Average temperatures on Europa are about –260° F at the equator. The air would not freeze; that occurs at a much lower temperature. However, all plants would die, which would mean no oxygen replenishment. Some life could be possible deep underground, as Earth’s internal heat derives from radioactive elements in the core, not the sun.

Alternatively, humans could engineer ultra-powerful greenhouse gases to warm up the planet at its new orbit. These gases would have to be carefully formulated to not be toxic to humans, or equally critically, plants, since we would still need oxygen. Also important to look after are the various cyanobacteria and algae in the Earth’s oceans, which contribute a sizeable chunk of the oxygen in the atmosphere too. These microorganisms, in terms of population, would be most sensitive to climate shifts, though ironically, in a major climate cataclysm, they are also the most likely to survive as a species; see Snowball Earth. You would also have to solve the problem of reduced sunlight, though humans are pretty good at that one.

Another thing to note is that the year would suddenly become much, much longer. Jupiter’s orbital period is about twelve years. If you have an interim “transition period” as the planet moves to its new orbit, humans (if any survived) would probably develop a new timekeeping system, as years would no longer be constant. Even after the planet settles into its new orbit, 12 Earth years is probably too long a period to be a useful unit of measurement for time, so humans may come to use a second level of calendar subdivision, in between months and years. Or they might simply keep using Earth years, and simply decouple the year from the orbital period.


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