Space: Astronomers discover new types of habitable planets

Space: Astronomers discover new types of habitable planets

“Hygienic” planets: The conditions in their oceans could make life possible.

© Amanda Smith / University of Cambridge

Researchers from Cambridge University have discovered a new type of habitable planet. His discovery “could completely change the understanding of life in the universe”.

CAMBRIDGE – This could be a major step forward in the search for life in space: Astronomers have discovered a new type of habitable planet. They are completely different from Earth: hot, but with lots of hydrogen in the oceans and atmosphere.

Inventors from the University of Cambridge in the UK named this new class hycine – a combination of “hydrogenum” (Latin for hydrogen) and marine. Reason: The newly discovered planets have a hydrogen-rich atmosphere and a warm surface – covered with oceans.

Researchers refute previous assumptions

Until now, exoplanets – that is, celestial bodies outside the Solar System – between Earth and Neptune were mostly known as super-Earths or mini-Neptunes. The latter are smaller than our Neptune – but too large to be made of rock like our home planet. For this reason, researchers previously assumed that their hydrogen-rich atmosphere was too hot and that the air pressure was too high to enable life.

Hygiene Planets: Conditions in their oceans could make life possible.

© University of Cambridge / Amanda Smith

Cambridge scientists have this impression Doctor. Nikku Madhusudano This is now clearly refuted on the basis of the mini-Neptune K2-18b. Because: The conditions there could make life possible, as their study showed. that im. Was astrophysical journal issued.

Hygiene planets are 2.6 times bigger than Earth

According to this, the Hygiene planets may be up to 2.6 times the size of Earth and have atmospheres of up to 200 °C, but the conditions in their oceans still allow microbes to survive – just like on Earth.

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“Hygiene planets open up completely new possibilities for us in the search for life,” said Dr. Madhusudan. Because such celestial bodies are in most exoplanets discovered so far. However, unlike Super-Earths – they have not yet been fully investigated.

“If we find a biosignature out there, it will completely change our understanding of life in the universe”

Doctor. Nikku Madhusudano

In their search, the researchers are mainly looking for so-called biomarkers such as methyl chloride and dimethyl sulfide. They indicate life on planets that do not have an oxygen-rich atmosphere like Earth.

Researchers now want to take a closer look at the planets

Doctor. Madhusudan. “But we think that hygienic planets now offer a better chance of finding traces of biosignatures”.

The planets that Cambridge scientists have identified as hygienic are now to be examined in more detail with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). All these celestial bodies are located in the Solar System of the so-called “red dwarfs” and are not far away for astronomical conditions at 35 to 150 light years.

It also contains K2-18b. Researchers also want to examine it more closely with binoculars. “If we find a biosignature out there, it will completely change our understanding of life in the universe,” said Dr. Madhusudan. (Jan Wendt)

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