Astronomers have not yet found another world that can host life besides our home planet, but the findings of a new research suggest that there are alien worlds that could be more hospitable to life than Earth.
Characteristics Of Planets Optimally Hospitable To Life
In a study presented at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Congress in Barcelona on Aug. 23, researchers modeled the potential life on other watery planets using the ROCKE-3D software developed by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which can simulate the climates and ocean habitats of different types of exoplanets.
They found that some conditions on these exoplanets could create oceans that are optimally hospitable to life.
The researchers in particular found that watery planets with dense atmospheres, continents, and slowly revolving worlds with long days tend to be the most conducive places for life.
These conditions stimulate ocean circulation that brings nutrients from the depths to the surface, where they can be used for biological activities.
The circulation pattern known as "upwelling" could be key in fostering life on our seas. It occurs when wind rushes along the surface of the ocean and create currents that push deep and nutrient-rich water up from the depths toward the surface where photosynthetic plankton live.
These creatures feed on the nutrients, which allows them to produce organic compounds that feed larger organisms.
Study researcher Stephanie Olson, from the University of Chicago, said the research even shows that the conditions on some of these worlds with favorable patterns of ocean circulations could be better suited at supporting more active or more abundant life than on Earth.
"Our work has been aimed at identifying the exoplanet oceans which have the greatest capacity to host globally abundant and active life," Olson said.
"More upwelling means more nutrient resupply, which means more biological activity. These are the conditions we need to look for on exoplanets."
In Search Of Extraterrestrial Life
The researchers said that their findings could have important implications in the search for extraterrestrial life, as scientists could consider the conditions they found in looking for habitable worlds in the future.
Future generations of telescopes, for instance, could have features that can better analyze atmospheric density and rotation rate of a planet, which could provide a quick glimpse into the habitability of a particular world.
"It is thus essential to understand how ocean dynamics may manifest on habitable exoplanets differing from Earth — and to distinguish between planets that are capable of supporting life and those that are particularly hospitable to globally productive, detectable life," the researchers wrote in their abstract.