Astronomers are constantly searching for life elsewhere in the universe and everyday we move closer to answering that big question - are we alone out here?
Scientists have presented new work at the Keynote Lecture at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Congress in Barcelona, claiming that they have located several exoplanets that have the required conditions to harbor life. So does an exoplanet need to harbor life? Firstly, scientists and astronomers are looking for planets that come under the 'habitable zone', which means the planet must have a potential for liquid water oceans and possibly breathable oxygen.
Dr. Stephanie Olson (University of Chicago) presented this new information and says that "NASA's search for life in the Universe is focused on so-called 'habitable zone' planets, which are worlds that have the potential for liquid water oceans. But not all oceans are equally hospitable-and some oceans will be better places to live than others due to their global circulation patterns."
She continued and explained the goal of the research, saying "Our work has been aimed at identifying the exoplanet oceans which have the greatest capacity to host globally abundant and active life. Life in Earth's oceans depends on upwelling (upward flow) which returns nutrients from the dark depths of the ocean to the sunlit portions of the ocean where photosynthetic life lives. More upwelling means more nutrient resupply, which means more biological activity. These are the conditions we need to look for on exoplanets."
Using NASA's ROCKE-3-D software, Olson's team simulated several exoplanets models that would be best suited for sustaining thriving life. "We have used an ocean circulation model to identify which planets will have the most efficient upwelling and thus offer particularly hospitable oceans. We found that higher atmospheric density, slower rotation rates, and the presence of continents all yield higher upwelling rates. A further implication is that Earth might not be optimally habitable-and life elsewhere may enjoy a planet that is even more hospitable than our own."
In conclusion, Olson says that "This is a surprising conclusion, it shows us that conditions on some exoplanets with favourable ocean circulation patterns could be better suited to support life that is more abundant or more active than life on Earth." For more information about these exoplanet models, visit this link here.
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