Other Solar Systems May Be More Habitable Than Ours

Source: Ohio State University press release
Posted: 12/05/12

Summary: A new study indicates that planets orbiting stars that are hotter than our sun may be more dynamic than Earth, and capable of supporting microbial life. Such planets would likely have warmer interiors and are more geologically active than our home planet.

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.

That’s because the interiors of any terrestrial planets in these systems are likely warmer than Earth — up to 25 percent warmer, 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 preliminary finding comes from geologists and astronomers at Ohio State University who have teamed up to search for alien life in a new way.

They 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.

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.

Of the eight solar twins they’ve studied so far, seven appear to contain much more thorium than our sun — which suggests that any planets orbiting those stars probably contain more thorium, too. That, in turn, means that the interior of the planets are probably warmer than ours.

Read more: Other Solar Systems May Be More Habitable Than Ours — Astrobiology Magazine.

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