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TagOcean planets

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Six worlds

New Class of “Hycean” Exoplanets May Feature Life

The new James Webb Telescope will enable much clearer resolution for the composition believed necessary for hosting life

A group of Cambridge astronomers, studying the more than 4000 confirmed exoplanets, think that hydrogen-rich planets may host life. These “Hycean” planets are more numerous than planets similar to Earth and are easier to observe, especially through the new James Webb telescope, to be launched later this year. They are thought to be completely covered by oceans and are termed “mini-Neptune water worlds”: Many of the prime Hycean candidates identified by the researchers are bigger and hotter than Earth, but still have the characteristics to host large oceans that could support microbial life similar to that found in some of Earth’s most extreme aquatic environments. These planets also allow for a far wider habitable zone, or ‘Goldilocks zone’, compared to…

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Colorful exoplanet insolated on black

Why the Search for ET Now Focuses on Oceans in the Outer Planets

Some researchers are refining their ET life-tracking skills

The moons of the outer planets, research shows, have vast oceans and water is an essential ingredient of life as we know it. Natalie Elliot, a science writer with a specialty in astrobiology, explains, The hottest spots in the search for alien life are a few frigid moons in the outer solar system, each known to harbor a liquid-water ocean beneath its icy exterior. There is Saturn’s moon Titan, which hides a thick layer of briny water beneath a frozen surface dotted with lakes of liquid hydrocarbon. Titan’s sister Saturnian moon Enceladus has revealed its subsurface sea with geyserlike plumes venting from cracks near its south pole. Plumes also emanate from a moon that is one planet closer to the…

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alien world, exoplanet in the habitable zone, planet with moon, water and plant life

Could the Universe Be Swimming in Watery Planets?

A new hypothesis of planet formation means that watery worlds may be common rather than rare

As the Mars Rover Perseverance motors around looking for evidence of past life on a now- mostly dry planet, some researchers are asking, can we be sure that most planets in our galaxy are dry? A common assumption among exoplanet experts is that most planets got their water via a chance hit early on from an icy asteroid. But researchers from the GLOBE Institute at the University of Copenhagen offer an alternative scenario, based on the millimetre-sized particles of ice and carbon that orbit all the young stars in our Milky Way galaxy. If masses of these particles are incorporated into a planet from its beginning, it isn’t a matter of chance whether the planet has water. It is a…

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weird ice planet

We Won’t Find ET on Ocean Planets, Researchers Say

We will see few extraterrestrials if a great many promising exoplanets are Waterworlds

Science writer Matt Williams has been writing a series on the question of why, despite the size of our galaxy, we see no other intelligent life forms. It could be, he suggests, that “many planets out there are just too watery!” Williams points out that, although water covers 71% of Earth’s surface, it is only 0.02% of the planet’s mass. If the proportion were much higher, Earth would be an ocean planet because the water would surface. It’s an open question whether an ocean planet would feature highly technologically developed intelligent life forms. Dolphins, for example, are quite intelligent but they do not seek to use any technology. The question of whether a planet could have too much water arose,…