Is there Life on Hycean planets?
6 September 2022
A new study shows that a planet very similar to Earth could provide a habitable environment for extraterrestrial life. Investigators at the University of Cambridge have located a new class of habitable planets covered with hydrogen-rich atmospheres named “High Ocean planets.”
High Ocean planets are similar to the exoplanets “Super-Earth,” and “Mini-Neptune” and are 2.6 times larger than Earth.
High-ocean planets not only have more than ten times the mass of Earth but also appear to be able to remain habitable at widely varying distances from their stars.
Some of these planets orbit close to their stars and have “scorching day sides and eternally night sides,” but those orbiting farther away “receive little stellar radiation,” according to Space.com. High-ocean planets with “habitable zones” larger than Earth’s may harbor microbial life that can survive in extreme conditions, Science Alert said.
Astronomer Nik Madhusudan, one of the researchers behind the new study published in the Astrophysical Journal, said, “Some of these global ocean conditions may be similar to the habitable conditions of Earth’s oceans, such as similar temperature, pressure, or presence of liquid water,” site.
“The inference is that if microbial aquatic life forms in these oceans, as it does on Earth, some biological features may also be common.”
Madhusudhan said “many unanswered questions” remain, but “the search for life on Hysen could begin soon,” Space.com noted.
Because of their scope and closeness to Earth, these planets are “much easier to find and study than smaller Earth-like planets,” Forbes noted. The researchers suggested that the James Webb Space Telescope, launched in October, could study biomarkers of such exoplanets.
Marsden said, “Nature continues to surprise us in often unimaginable ways, so we need to be open about where life is found and how it comes about.” While “many open questions” remain, it is possible that life could be discovered on exoplanets in “a timescale of a few years.”