The variation of a planet's obliquity is influenced by the existence of satellites with a high mass ratio. For instance, Earth's obliquity is stabilized by the Moon and would undergo chaotic variations in the Moon's absence. In turn, such variations can lead to large-scale changes in the atmospheric circulation, rendering spin-axis dynamics a central issue for understanding climate. The relevant quantity for dynamically forced climate change is the rate of chaotic diffusion. Accordingly, here we re-examine the spin-axis evolution of a Moonless Earth within the context of a simplified perturbative framework. We present analytical estimates of the characteristic Lyapunov coefficient as well as the chaotic diffusion rate and demonstrate that even in absence of the Moon, the stochastic change in Earth's obliquity is sufficiently slow to not preclude long-term habitability. Our calculations are consistent with published numerical experiments and illustrate the putative system's underlying dynamical structure in a simple and intuitive manner.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- July 2014
- planetary systems;
- planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability;
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- 8 pages, 7 figures Accepted for publication in ApJ