Subscribe up for interesting CNN Theory of financial science. Explore the universe with news about exciting discoveries, scientific advances and more.
The hunt for planets that could host life just narrowed dramatically.
Scientists have long hoped and thought that the most common type of star in our universe — called M dwarfs — has nearby planets with atmospheres, potentially rich in carbon and perfect for creating life. But in a new study of a M dwarf world orbiting 66 light-years from Earth, researchers found no evidence that such a planet could hold onto an atmosphere at all.
Without a carbon-rich atmosphere, it is unlikely that the planet would be inhospitable to living things. Carbon molecules are, however, considered the building blocks of life. But the findings don’t bode well for other types of orbiting M dwarf planets, study coauthor Michelle Hill, a planetary scientist and doctoral candidate at the University of California, Riverside.
“The star’s radiation output is immense, enough to blow up the planet’s atmosphere,” said Hill in a post on the university’s website.
Dwarf stars are known to be volatile, destroying solar flares and raining rays on nearby celestial bodies.
But for years there had been hope that there might be planets as large as 100,000 dwarfs in Goldilocks orbits, large enough to support their small star and large enough to be stuck in its atmosphere.
But a near-M dwarf could be too intense to maintain an entire atmosphere, according to a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
A similar phenomenon occurs in our solar world: the Earth’s atmosphere also degenerates due to the eruptions of the closest star to the Sun. The difference is that Earth has enough volcanic activity and other gas-emitting activities to replace the atmospheric damage and make it barely detectable, according to the research.
However, the M dwarf planet examined in the GJ 1252b study “could have a million times more carbon than Earth and still not have an atmosphere. It would initially build up, but then tilt and destroy,” said study coauthor and UC Riverside astrophysicist Stephen Kane in a news release.
GJ 1252b orbits less than a million miles from its home star, called GJ_1252. The planet reaches a chilly day temperature of up to 2,242 degrees Fahrenheit (1,228 degrees Celsius), the study found.
The existence of a planet was first suggested by NASA’s transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS mission. Astronomers then ordered the nearly 17-year-old Spitzer Space Telescope to be visible in space in January 2020, less than 10 days before Spitzer was deactivated forever.
The investigation into whether GJ 1252b is atmospheric was led by astronomer Ian Crossfield at the University of Kansas and involved a group of researchers from UC Riverside, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech, the University of Maryland, the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, McGill University, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Montreal.
Looking at the data produced by Spitzer, looking for emission signatures, or signs of gaseous bubbles that might include a planet. The telescope captured the planet passing behind its home star, allowing researchers to “look at the starlight as it passes through the planet’s atmosphere,” giving it an “atmosphere signature” — or lack thereof, Hill said.
Hill added that he was not disappointed to find no signs of air pollution, but was disappointed. He looks for moons and planets in “habitable zones” and the results for worlds looking at the ubiquitous M dwarf stars are a little less interesting.
Researchers hope to gain more clarity about these types of planets with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful modern space telescope.
Webb soon set his sights on the TRAPPIST-1 system, “which is also a M dwarf star with a bunch of rocky planets around it,” Hill noted.
“There is a lot of hope that it will be able to tell us whether or not these planets have an atmosphere around them,” he added. “I guess M dwarf fanatics are probably holding their breath now that we can see if we know the atmosphere around these planets.”
However, there are still many interesting places to search for habitable worlds. In addition to looking at planets further away from M dwarfs, which are more likely to retain atmospheres, there are still about a thousand solar stars relative to Earth that could have their planets orbiting within habitable zones, according to the study at the UC Riverside station. .
#hunt #habitable #planets #narrowed #chance #study #Snoring