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Some Cold Giant Planets May Be Habitable, Researchers Say

Life could exist outside the expected habitable zone if a massive planet can hang onto insulating gases in its atmosphere

Rocky exoplanets with an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium gases could have liquid water on the surface, like Jupiter’s moon Europa, and could thus host life. The question is whether the surface water sticks around long on “cold super-Earths,” that are ten times the mass of our planet: Now, new calculations described in a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy suggest that the surface conditions of these worlds could have been temperate for more than enough time for life—for 5 billion to 8 billion years. Earth is only about 4.5 billion years old, by comparison, and life emerged here about 3.7 billion years ago. Eva Botkin-Kowacki, “We may be underestimating how many cold, giant planets are habitable” at…