September 18, 2021

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Astronomers have identified a new class of exoplanets on which life may exist

Astronomers have identified a new class of exoplanets on which life may exist

| Astronomy / Physics

Scientists looking for life outside the solar system are paying attention to planets with similar mass, size, temperature and atmosphere to Earth. But astronomers at the University of Cambridge say so There are many more possibilities than just finding a ‘second Earth’.. in pages Astrophysical Journal He published an article in which they reported the identification of a new class of planets on which life could exist. And since this planet is more widespread and easier to observe than copies of Earth, it cannot be excluded that we will find traces of life outside the solar system within a few years.

They named this new class “Hycian planets” from the words “hydrogen” and “ocean”. These are oceanic worlds with an atmosphere rich in hydrogen. Hycian planets open up completely new possibilities in the search for lifeSays lead author of the study, Dr. Niko Madhusudan of the Astroomia Institute.

Many of the candidates for “Hycian planets” are bodies larger and warmer than Earth. But its characteristics show that it is covered with enormous oceans capable of supporting life, as we find in the most extreme aquatic environments on Earth. Moreover, there is a much larger outer field for such planets.

Remember, the exosphere is the range of a planet’s distance from its host star within which the planet’s water can exist in a liquid state. As it turns out, in the case of the “Hycian planets,” the exosphere is wider than the Earth-sized planets.
In the past 30 years or so, we’ve discovered thousands of planets outside the solar system. Most of them are planets larger than Earth and smaller than Neptune, known as super-Earths. They are usually rocky or ice giants with hydrogen-rich atmospheres. Previous studies of such planets have shown that they are too hot to allow life to exist there.

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Recently, the Madhusudhan team has been searching for the K2-18 giant Earth. Scientists have discovered that under certain conditions life can exist on such planets. So they decided to conduct more extensive research to determine what conditions the planet and its star must meet, for such conditions to occur, which of the known exoplanets meet them, and whether it is possible to observe their vital fingerprints, that is, traces of this life from Earth.

Scientists have found that “Hycian planets” can be up to 2.6 times larger than Earth, and atmospheric temperatures can reach 200 degrees Celsius, but conditions in the oceans may be similar to those in Earth’s oceans. This category also includes “Hycean dark planets” whose rotation coincides with their orbit around the star, so one side of the planet is always facing the star. Such orbs could only sustain life on the night side.

Planets larger than Earth but not more than 2.6 times dominate the discovered planets. It can be assumed that “Hycian planets” are very common among them. However, they have not received much attention so far, because the focus has been on the study of planets that are most similar to Earth.

However, size alone is not enough. To confirm that we are dealing with a “Hycian planet”, we also need to know its mass, temperature, and atmosphere.

hycean planet life ocean hydrogen solar system exoplanet