Computer model may identify many more habitable planets
Tuesday 11 September 2012
New computer models suggest that there are many more habitable planets in distant solar-systems than previously thought.
Research from scientists at the University of Aberdeen was presented at the British Science Festival yesterday showing the new models that help identify planets with a greater likelihood of having underground water, and therefore able to support life.
Previous estimates of planets capable of supporting life had been based on the likelihood of there being surface water available. It was thought that for water to exist in liquid form, a planet must be a certain distance from its sun, in a "habitable" or "Goldilocks" zone.
"Life as we know it requires liquid water. Traditionally, planets have been considered habitable if they are in the Goldilocks zone," said Sean McMahon of the University of Aberdeen's School of Geosciences.
He added: "They need to be not too close to their sun but also not too far away for liquid water to persist, rather than boiling or freezing, on the surface. However, we now know that many micro-organisms reside deep in the rocky crust of the planet, not on the surface. There will be several times more [habitable] planets."
The new research is based on estimates that even when the surface of a planet is frozen, huge quantities of water, teeming with life, could exist below, warmed by heat generated within the planet and not its star.
"There is a significant habitat for micro-organisms below the surface of the Earth, extending down several kilometres," said Professor John Parnell of Aberdeen University. "And some believe that the bulk of life on Earth could reside in this deep biosphere."
The university is developing models to predict which planets might harbour underground reservoirs of liquid water with the possibility of alien life.
Suns warm planet surfaces but heat also comes from planet interiors. Crust temperature increases with depth so planets that are too cold for liquid water on the surface may be sufficiently warm underground to support life.
Mr McMahon said: "We have developed a new model to show how 'Goldilocks zones' can be calculated for underground water and hence life. Our model shows that habitable planets could be much more widespread than previously thought."
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...
£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...