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I've heard this often in the media, that the gas planet Jupiter has a significant effect upon life on Earth - by, the say, drawing asteroids & comets to itself, many planet-killer are destroyed as they plummet into Jupiter's thick atmosphere, sucked in by the gas giant's massive gravity.

One such impact was recorded in the 90's (Shoemaker-Levy 9) and so there's a grain of truth in this claim.

The current accepted hypothesis for the extinction of the dinosaurs is an asteroid impact, but such extinction level events would've been more frequent if Jupiter and perhaps even Saturn, the second largest planet in our solar system, weren't there.

There's a really interesting expression astronomers use to describe Jupiter - vacuum cleaner of the solar system (critical to the wellbeing of all life on earth for the reason given above).

I was just wondering though, do the other 6 planets also have significant effects in a similar sense (protecting life on earth)?

If yes, what have Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune done to keep life on Earth safe?

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    $\begingroup$ Saturn does the same role as Jupiter's $\endgroup$
    – user47732
    Dec 28, 2022 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ What you are asking about is Natural teleology: natural objects' intrinsic purpose, independent of any human use. This idea was common in ancient Greece (in Aristotle, for example, but the Atomists rejected it). It is nowadays generally rejected. Planets may have functions, but they don't have roles. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Dec 28, 2022 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ It's the word "role" that bothers some people, as it did in an earlier question What (if any) role did Earth play in the evolution of the solar system? so I've adjusted your wording a bit to avoid that conundrum. Please feel free to edit further. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 29, 2022 at 3:52
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    $\begingroup$ Whoever edited the question, danke. $\endgroup$
    – Hudjefa
    Dec 29, 2022 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh: I think many people use "function" and "role" interchangeably. To be honest, I know I do. That's why I was confused about James K's answer at first. From a layperson's perspective, it felt like an unnecessary detail to focus on, and doesn't really answer the question, but I understand that a word can have very different meanings depending on the audience (especially in very technical or scientific fields where both words are used to mean different things). $\endgroup$ Dec 29, 2022 at 20:29

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Nothing.

This is a question of Teleology, the philosophical enquiry into the purpose. It makes sense to talk of purpose of human created objects: a knife has the purpose of "cutting things". But natural objects don't have purposes.

An acorn will grow into an oak tree, that is what it does. But it would be wrong to say that the purpose of a seed is to grow into an oak tree. To do so would be to give human properties and personalities to seeds and plants: a category error.

Suppose Jupiter does reduce the number of cometary impacts{doubtful, discuss} It would be wrong to say that its role is to reduce the number of cometary impacts. That is a category error.

The other planets don't have roles either.

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    $\begingroup$ It is dubious, because most cometary impact are with short period comets, and they wouldn't be short period comets if they hadn't been perturbed into a short orbit by Jupiter. So Jupiter might actually increase the number of cometary impacts. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Dec 28, 2022 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ So the reports were bogus. Good response to my reckoning. I'd like to see what others havta say about this rather intriguing hypothesis. It is quite popular among the public, perhaps it's a myth - interesting, but false. $\endgroup$
    – Hudjefa
    Dec 28, 2022 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ I've removed "role" from the question since there was pushback (as there was for the previous "role" question liked to in comments above) then I realized there was an answer focused on semantics rather than the effect of the other planets upon life on Earth which I think is really the what the OP is asking about. I think it's worth seeing what at least Wikipedia says about Jupiter's role in our solar system's evolution, as well as the usage of the word "role" in the article. Formation and evolution of the Solar System $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 29, 2022 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ "Some of those massive embryos too were ejected by Jupiter, while others may have migrated to the inner Solar System and played a role in the final accretion of the terrestrial planets" and "The inner Solar System's period of giant impacts probably played a role in the Earth acquiring its current water content (~6×1021 kg) from the early asteroid belt." $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 29, 2022 at 4:00
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Jupiter certainly. By acting as a cosmic gravity vacuum, Drew dangerous asteroids away from Earth and inner Systems.

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