Habitable worlds may hide in Jupiter-like planets' wake

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London, Nov 3 : Computer generated simulations by a scientist have indicated that habitable planets may be hidden in the wake of Jupiter-like planets as they orbit distant stars.

According to a report in New Scientist, Wladimir Lyra of the Uppsala Astronomical Observatory in Sweden has developed the simulations.

When a gas giant coalesces from the swirling nebula of gas and dust surrounding a young star, the planet's gravity forms a wake ahead and behind it, concentrating enough matter there for it to clump together and form smaller, rocky planets like Earth.

Objects born in Jupiter's wake may have merged to form the planet Saturn, which was then nudged into its current position by the gravity of other planets, according to the team.

Outside our solar system, some gas giant planets have been detected in the habitable zone of their stars. Their wakes may harbour rocky, Earth-size worlds.

"It's an exciting possibility," said Sara Seager of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

According to Seager, such planets could be found by the small gravitational tugs they exert on their larger, known siblings, an idea supported by recent calculations by Nikku Madhusudhan and Joshua Winn, also of MIT.

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