About a week ago scientists discovered that water worlds are much more common than we thought, now they think that 10% of them could support extraterrestrial life.
Researchers believe that most of the known exoplanets are made of up to 50% water. Now they’re claiming that 10% of those exoplanets could be stable enough for life to evolve over time.
The study of exoplanets has made incredible leaps and bounds over the past year. In mid august it was found that the elements which comprise our planet are “pretty normal” surrounding distant stars, which further increases the probability of discovering life similar to our own.
Previously we’d assumed that without a landmass planets could not cycle the kind of minerals and gases that stabilize climate here on Earth. However, this new study, discovered that watery exoplanets could stay in the goldilocks zone” for life to develop much longer than thought previously.
After conducting thousands of simulations scientists discovered a surprise.
“…many of them stay stable for more than a billion years, just by luck of the draw,” Kite said. “Our best guess is that it’s on the order of 10 percent of them.”
“This really pushes back against the idea you need an Earth clone—that is, a planet with some land and a shallow ocean,” said Edwin Kite, assistant professor of geophysical sciences at UChicago and lead author of the study.
“How much time a planet has is basically dependent on carbon dioxide and how it’s partitioned between the ocean, atmosphere and rocks in its early years,” said Kite. “It does seem there is a way to keep a planet habitable long-term without the geochemical cycling we see on Earth.”
Carbon dioxide is of course the compound that plants breathe. It turns out that watery exoplanets with just the right amount of minerals and crustal elements don’t end up pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Which would leave enough for the first forms of alien plant life to develop.
Another unexpected discovery was made during the study. It turns out that red dwarf systems may be more suitable for life than our own. Their slow burning nature actually means that life would have a longer time to develop in these sweet spots.
“Theoretically, all you would need is the steady light of a star.”