February 04, 2013

Milky Way’s Alien Solar Systems “More Likely to Support Life” (Today’s Most Popular)

Scattered around the Milky Way are stars that resemble our own sun—but a new study is finding that any planets orbiting those stars may very well be hotter and more dynamic than Earth because the interiors of terrestrial planets in these systems are likely warmer than Earth by up to 25 percent, which would make them more geologically active and more likely to retain enough liquid water to support life, at least in its microbial form. The finding came from geologists and astronomers at Ohio State University who have teamed up to search for alien life in a new way.

The Ohio State team studied eight “solar twins” of our sun—stars that very closely match the sun in size, age, and overall composition—in order to measure the amounts of radioactive elements they contain. Those stars came from a dataset recorded by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher spectrometer at the European Southern Observatory in Chile (image above). They searched the solar twins for elements such as thorium and uranium, which are essential to Earth’s plate tectonics because they warm our planet’s interior. Plate tectonics helps maintain water on the surface of the Earth, so the existence of plate tectonics is sometimes taken as an indicator of a planet’s hospitality to life.

Read more: Milky Way's Alien Solar Systems "More Likely to Support Life" (Today's Most Popular) — Daily Galaxy.

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