The dividing line between the planet’s perpetual day and night sides may have the right conditions for life to thrive.
At present, our relentless search for extraterrestrial life has proven fruitless. But we may be looking in all the wrong places. When astronomers search for aliens, planets with permanent day and night aspects are often classified as uninhabitable. researchers in New study Doubt whether this is the right way of thinking. Because conditions in certain regions on these extreme exoplanets may be very suitable for life.
permanent day and night
Red dwarfs are the most abundant and longest-lived stars in the universe. It is slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun. These so-called stars are known to host planets on a regular basis. “These planets often have a permanent day side and a permanent night side,” said researcher Anna Lobo. This relates to the fact that the time it takes for a planet to complete one orbit around its axis is equal to the time it takes to orbit its parent star. As a result, the same side of the planet is always facing the parent star. This side is called the day side. The side that is always farthest from the parent star is called the night side.
As you can imagine, the conditions prevailing on such planets are not entirely sensitive. The side that always faces the star can get very hot, while on the dark side of the planet, eternal night causes any water that might be present to freeze. “That means it’s always very hot in the daytime, and so it’s far from habitable,” Lupo explains. “At the same time, it is cold at night. This area may be covered in ice and large glaciers.”
So in their search for extraterrestrial life, astronomers are looking for planets with more favorable climates, where water exists in liquid form. That’s because, as far as we know, liquid water is an essential ingredient for life. “You want a planet with just the right temperature to host liquid water,” Lobo concludes.
In this sense, you can cross planets with permanent day and night aspects out of the list. However, Lobo thinks this is probably a bit premature. On these planets there are certain intermediate regions; Areas that lie exactly on the line between the day and night sides. And according to Lobo, in the so-called “End Zones” aliens could be hiding.
To reach this conclusion, Lobo and her colleagues modeled the climate of planets that contain watersheds. They did this using software commonly used to model our planet’s climate, but with some modifications. The models show that the temperature in the separation zones can be just right for the presence of liquid water. Life can then thrive in those waters.
Looking for life
According to the researchers, this is the first time that planets with permanent day and night aspects have been shown to be habitable. This greatly increases the number of worlds where we can search for extraterrestrial life. Until now, astronomers have focused mainly on exoplanets covered in oceans. But now Lobo and her team are showing that even planets that may seem uninhabitable at first glance may actually be more habitable than previously thought. “We’re trying to draw attention to more ‘water-limited’ planets, which, despite not having vast oceans, might still harbor lakes or other small amounts of water,” Lobo says. “The climate here might be promising for life.”
Moreover, it is important that a planet with buffer zones does not contain too much water. In fact, when it comes to a water-rich world, the water facing the star will always evaporate, so that the entire planet is enveloped in a curtain of vapor. If there was a lot of land instead, this effect shouldn’t occur. In this case, the aliens are most likely to be located in the end zones.
The results have far-reaching implications. For example, the researchers argue that the current way astronomers look for signs of life on exoplanets should be modified somewhat. This has to do with the fact that biosignatures derived from life may only be present in certain parts of the atmosphere. So when astronomers use the James Webb Space Telescope, among others, to characterize planets that might harbor extraterrestrial life, they’ll know better exactly where to look. And it may actually lead to success very quickly. Lobo concludes, “By taking into account different climates on the same planet, we increase the chance of encountering an inhabited planet in the near future.”
“Twitter junkie. Lifelong communicator. Award-winning analyst. Subtly charming internetaholic.”