Scientists identify Solar System’s internal clock

I doubt you’ll find any news articles that actually put these events together this way, but it seems to me that separate research projects whose findings were published over a year apart have established that the Solar System maintains or runs an internal “clock” that affects planetary behaviors, including climate change.

In December 2008, CalTech researches established that Martian climate changes occur every 100,000 years as part of a 1-million year cycle. Although this article compares the Martian cycle of rotational shifts to Earth’s cycle (100,000 years versus 41,000 years), another article establishes a similar 100,000 year cycle in Earth’s climate that is also tied to the planetary wobbling (changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit).

While these two studies correlate climate changes on both planets to different causes, the strikingly similar cyclical changes demand further study. Could it be that the Solar System pulses every 100,000 years and — if so — why does it pulse like that?

Furthermore, what is the significance of the duo 1-million-year cycles as well? Dr. Lisiecki’s study suggests that three different orbital systems may be playing roles in Earth’s 100,000-year cycles but we are only just beginning to develop Mars science now. Planetologists and astrophysicists should be looking at the data coming out of these kinds of studies to determine if there isn’t a system-wide pattern at play.

But wait! Maybe scientists began to notice this pattern back in 2002, when a Dartmouth scientist noticed the sun has a 100,000-year magnetic cycle. Hm. We’re running into this 100,000-year phenomenon everywhere.

So, basically, the sun’s magnetic field seems to be breathing (inhaling and exhaling) in cycles that tune up or tone down the Solar radiation, which in turn may be connected to the Earth’s (and Mars’ and other planets’) orbital functions. These cycles produce regular climactic shifts.

Sounds like someone could put together a theory about all this, doesn’t it? Well, heck — before you and I go claiming any credit for Nobel Prizes to be awarded for this research, I have to point out that Serbian mathematician Muletin Milankovitch proposed what is now called the ‘Milankovitch theory of ice ages’ in the 1940s. Milankovitch suggested that Earth’s climactic cycles might be tied to Solar cycles.

Science since then has questioned and revised the data and calculations that went into Milankovitch’s hypothesis but it seems to have withstood the test of time pretty well.

What may be most significant about this branch of science (perhaps it’s too soon to call it Milankovitchistic Science) is that it may help help scientists distinguish between true planetary bodies and other bodies, or perhaps identify “rogue” bodies passing through star systems. After all, if you detect a planet-sized body close to a star but it doesn’t appear to be attuned to that star system’s internal clock, you have an anomaly.

While there may still be a need to further validate the Milankovitch theory within our own Solar System, it may be time for scientists to start analyzing the planetary systems we have discovered so far to determine if there are resonances of those suns’ internal clocks that tie their planets to them.

While we cannot yet study climate on planets outside the Solar System, we can study planetary behaviors, including some if not all of their orbital behaviors. And that, I think, should be good enough for a start in ascertaining how universal Milankovitch’s Principle may be.

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