The Moon Jupiter and Life on Earth

The surface is fine and powdery. I can kick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers, like powdered charcoal, to the sole and sides of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe an eighth of an inch, but I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine, sandy particles.

—Neil Armstrong's first words from the surface of the Moon (1969)

Perhaps an astronomer's greatest fear is that sooner or later, someone will mistake him or her for an astrologer. The ancient belief system known as astrology posits that the stars and planets exert a major influence on our daily lives—a set of beliefs frequently and fervently disputed by astronomers. Recent research, however, has in an odd way proved the astrologers slightly correct. Two heavenly bodies, the Moon and Jupiter, do, in fact, play pivotal roles in our very existence as a species. Without the Moon, and without Jupiter, there is a strong likelihood that animal life would not exist on Earth today. Both are thus key elements in the Rare Earth Hypothesis, but for different reasons.

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