Twenty years have passed since the discovery of the first exoplanet, and since then numerous more have been observed. In 2014 alone 800 different exoplanets were identified. Scientist are now keen to dig deeper into the mysteries of outer space and are researching the ways other exoplanets may host oceans.
As our knowledge tells us, life cannot exist without water. That’s the reason why, nowadays, scientists focused on searching for evidence of alien life are conducting numerous studies in hopes of bringing new light on the way oceans of faraway exoplanets work.
Researchers from the CfA presented a new study in Washington, Seattle, at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) are enthusiastic about their newly released study, in which they attempt do demonstrate that oceans on exoplanets – or super-Earths – can last for billions and billions of years.
As it is well known, a planet’s water isn’t just on the surface. Earth, for example, encapsulates the equivalent several oceans’ water beneath its covering. The vast amount of water is dragged underground by the movement of tectonic plates and withdrawn of the seafloor. If our planet didn’t have a system of recycling its water, all of the Earth’s oceans would disappear.
Lara Schaefer along with her the team of researchers from the CfA, created a computer program that she used to simulate how this process of renewing a planet’s water would take place on exoplanets. Also, the program enabled her to calculate how much time was needed for oceans to form on super-Earths.
What she concluded was that on an exoplanet such as the ones she studied, life would have a slower start. On a super-Earth, Schaefer claims that 5.5 billion years would be needed for the planet be able to sustain life. As a comparison, it took our planet about 4.6 billion years to complete that task.
To think that before the discovery of the first exoplanet, 20 years ago, astronomers believed with almost certainty that life could not be possible outside of our own planet, is now astonishing.
In the words of Yale professor Debra Ficher: “Here’s the universe twinkling with the lights of other stars, and we had to think that maybe there weren’t other planets orbiting around them.”
Image Source: Softpedia