A recent study suggested that Earth might have lost one of its two moons following a collision between the two. But a new study concludes that Earth's orbit would have been stable even without a moon.

Moon stabilizes the tilt of Earth that in turn ensures stable climatic conditions for the evolution of complex life. However, according to the latest study, "the influence of other planets in the solar system could have kept a moonless Earth stable."

"The stabilizing effect that our large moon has on Earth's rotation may not be as crucial for life as previously believed," lead researcher Jason Barnes of the University of Idaho said in his report published in Astrobiology magazine.

Barnes and his collaborators concluded that the pull of other planets in the solar system orbiting the Sun would keep Earth’s rotation on its axis steady. They insist that Jupiter, being the most massive planet of the solar system, would restore stability of a moonless Earth.

Researchers also pondered over the effect of the absence or presence of moon on earth's obliquity.

According to them, the angle between the plane of Earth’s orbit and the plane of the equator has changed from one to two degrees over a half billion years. However, even though the current shift seems to be a small effect, coupled with Earth’s present climate, it causes big changes and is also thought to be partially responsible for the Ice Ages, Barnes said.

Without a moon, the inclination of Earth’s equator would vary ten to twenty degrees over the same period of time, but would not be a big problem concerning complexity of life, he added.

"It would have effects, but not preclude the development of large scale, intelligent life."

The new study also suggests that other habitable planets in the Universe need not necessarily have a moon to support life.

In fact, only one percent of any terrestrial planets are estimated to have a substantial moon, scientists said.


The planet Jupiter is seen next to the moon at sunset in the skies above Sydney June 16, 2005. According to a recent study, Jupiter being the most massive planet of the solar system would restore stability of a moonless Earth. PHOTO: REUTERS/David Gray

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