Life on Mars could exist if it weren't for Jupiter

Solar systems have the ability to hold up to seven habitable planets.
Solar systems have the ability to hold up to seven habitable planets. Photo credit: Getty Images

A University of California study shows our solar system could have up to seven habitable planets if it weren't for Jupiter and the way it orbits.

For planets to be habitable they need to have liquid water, and the area surrounding a star where this is possible is called the 'habitable zone'.

Astrobiologist Stephen Kane has been studying a solar system named Trappist-1 which has three planets in the habitable zone. This led him to dig deeper into why our solar system only has one, Earth.

The study found some solar systems could hold up to seven planets capable of sustaining oceans.

But in our solar system, because Jupiter is two-and-a-half times larger than all of the other planets in our solar system it disrupts their orbits, which has an effect on their habitability.

Kane says solar systems are likely to have more habitable planets if their orbits are circular rather than oval and there are no disruptive planets like Jupiter.

The study worked by creating a simulation of planets orbiting stars and using an algorithm to mimic various gravitational pulls and interactions. 

Kane plans to identify more solar systems that have a number of habitable, water-containing planets.