- Rogue planets may be ripe for hosting life on hidden ‘Earth-like oceans’
- Space would be too cold for the oceans to remain liquid, but a planet’s biosphere would be protected from freezing through a layer of ice.
- For every solar system discovered, there could be 30-40 rogue planets in space
- Some have estimated that there are 100 billion solar systems in the universe.
Humanity has yet to detect the presence of extraterrestrial life, but it may be because it is not looking in the right place.
Rogue planets, which do not orbit stars, may be ripe to host life on hidden ‘Earth-like oceans’, a study suggests.
The research, which stems from Florida Institute of Technology astrobiologist Manasvi Lingam, suggests that rogue planets may have conditions for life that are sandwiched between the cold of space and the core of the planet.
The freezing of space would be too high for any potential oceans to remain liquid, but a planet’s biosphere would be protected from freezing through a layer of ice.
The center of the planet would heat the planet, leading to the formation of Earth-like oceans.
Rogue planets (artist’s illustration) may have matured to host life on hidden ‘Earth-like oceans’
“We usually think of planets tied to stars like Mars that could support life, but in reality, these types of life-supporting planets float in the vast void of space with rich biospheres,” Lingam said. can.” a Statement.
The researcher believes that for every solar system discovered, there could be 30 to 40 rogue planets traveling through space.
To date, scientists have discovered more than 3,000 star systems with planets orbiting them, according to NASA.
Space would be too cold for the oceans to remain liquid, but a planet’s biosphere would be protected from freezing through a layer of ice. The center of the planet would heat the planet, creating oceans like Earth’s above
Some scientists have estimated that there may be billions of solar systems in the Milky Way and perhaps 100 billion solar systems in the universe.
Several so-called rogue planets have been found in recent years, including one roughly the size of Earth moving across the Milky Way.
Four ‘free-floating’ planets were found by NASA’s Kepler space telescope in July.
a 2019 study Estimated The Milky Way alone may contain more than 50 billion rogue planets, giving researchers ample opportunity to find celestial bodies that contain oceans like Earth.
Researchers will further explore what types of extreme conditions life on Earth can survive in, including low temperatures and low pressures, by looking at microbes that don’t require sunlight to survive.
It may one day be possible to visit these rogue planets, according to Lingam, who published a paper on the subject. advances in space research.
“You may be able to reach a rogue planet in a few decades, and this may be the best opportunity to study these planets, rather than looking for other planets around other stars,” Lingham said.
‘Through a combination of gravity assists and a suitable propulsion system, you could reach the rogue planet in 20 years or so.
‘Once you have a probe on the surface, you can beam back the data and it will probably take a few months to figure out what it looks like on the surface.’
This study was highlighted in the September/October 2021 issue of Discover Magazine.
Scientists study the atmosphere of distant exoplanets using giant space satellites like Hubble
The positions of distant stars and their orbiting planets are often unlike anything we see in our atmosphere.
To understand these new worlds, and what they are made of, scientists need to be able to figure out what their atmospheres consist of.
They often do this using a telescope similar to NASA’s Hubble Telescope.
These giant satellites scan the sky and lock up exoplanets that may be of interest to NASA.
Here, the sensors on board perform different types of analysis.
One of the most important and useful is called absorption spectroscopy.
This form of analysis measures the light that is emanating from a planet’s atmosphere.
Each gas absorbs slightly different wavelengths of light, and when this happens a black line appears over the full spectrum.
These lines correspond to a very specific molecule, indicating its presence on the planet.
They are often called the Fraunhofer lines after the German astronomer and physicist who first discovered them in 1814.
By combining all the different wavelengths of light, scientists can determine all the chemicals that make up a planet’s atmosphere.
The key is that what is missing provides clues to find out what is present.
It is extremely important that this be done by space telescopes, because then the Earth’s atmosphere would interfere.
Absorption from chemicals in our atmosphere will skew the sample, which is why it’s important to study light before it has a chance to reach Earth.
It is often used to look for helium, sodium and even oxygen in exotic environments.
This diagram shows how light passing from a star and through the atmosphere of an exoplanet produces Fraunhofer lines that indicate the presence of major compounds such as sodium or helium.