Astronomers admit the existence of life in the "terminator zone" on distant planets: what is known about it
Extraterrestrial life can exist on planets in distant space that are considered unsuitable for it. We are talking about planets, one side of which is always facing its star, while the other side is in permanent darkness. It is on the thin border between them, which is called the terminator line, that the conditions necessary for life may be present.
This is according to a study by scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), published by The Astrophysical Journal.
The principal investigator of the project, Ana Lobo, a researcher in the UCI Department of Physics and Astronomy, explained that such planets with a terminator line are very common because they exist around stars that make up about 70% of the stars visible in the night sky. We are talking about so-called M-dwarf stars, which are not as powerful as the Sun in our system.
"These planets have a constant day side and a constant night side," Lobo explained.
Terminator refers to the line separating the two sides on a planet.
"It's a planet where the day side can be unbearably hot, well beyond habitable, and the night side will be freezing, potentially covered in ice. There could be large glaciers on the night side," Lobo is quoted by Phys.
In the terminator zone, however, the researchers believe the temperature may be ideal for liquid water to form there, which is an essential ingredient for life.
For the study, Lobo and her team simulated the climate on a planet with a terminator line using software normally used to simulate the climate on Earth. For this experiment, however, they had to actually stop the planet's rotation.
This study is the first of its kind, since exoplanets covered by an ocean have previously been used to search for life. Now that the theoretical existence of life on planets with a terminator line has been proven, astronomers will have new possibilities for their search.
"We are trying to draw attention to planets with limited water, which, despite the lack of large oceans, may have lakes or other smaller bodies of water, and such climates may be very promising," Lobo said.
She also clarified that there is an important nuance to finding the right planet. If the planet is mostly covered with water, the water facing the star is likely to evaporate and cover the entire planet with a thick layer of steam. But if the planet has dry land, such an effect should not occur, and under such conditions there is a high probability of life existing in the terminator zone.
The recognition of terminator zones as potential harbors for life means that astronomers will need to adjust the way they study the climate of exoplanets for signs of life, since biological signs of life can only be present in certain parts of a planet's atmosphere.
Earlier OBOZREVATEL also told about the research of scientists who understood why people cannot find life on Mars.