Alien life could be discovered on so-called ‘water worlds’ that are radically different from our own planet, new research claims.
Scientists from the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania State claim that the unique carbon make-up of ocean planets could support life for a longer period than was initially thought – giving a boost to the search for extraterrestrial life.
A computer model created by physicists showed that water planets have enough carbon to allow life to flourish and do not have too many minerals and elements.
It had been believed that water planets were unable to replicate the cycling of carbon and minerals that makes life on planet Earth habitable.
The Astrophysical Journal found that ocean planets could stay in the "sweet spot" for habitability much longer than previously assumed.
"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 at UChicago and the report’s lead author.
Life needs an extended period to evolve so scientists usually look for planets that have both some water and some way to keep their climates stable over time.
But this model doesn’t work on a water world, with deep water covering the rock and suppressing volcanoes.
"The surprise was that 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."
"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."
The scientists simulations looked at solar systems similar o our own but say similar results may be found for red dwarf planets because they
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