Exoplanets More Like Earth with Day and Night, Possibly Host Life, Say Scientists

An artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size planet.(Photo: NASA)

An artist’s concept depicts Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size planet.(Photo: NASA)

Exoplanets or planets outside our solar system are more likely to have water and atmosphere for a coducive and hospitable life than previously thought, suggest University of Toronto scientists.

“Planets with potential oceans could have a climate that is much more similar to Earth’s than previously expected,” said Jeremy Leconte of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA), part of the University of Toronto.

Leconte and his team of astrophysicists used a 3D model to project the possible effect of a given planet’s atmosphere on its rotation speed, which influences its climate.

“Atmosphere is a key factor affecting a planet’s spin, the impact of which can be of enough significance to overcome synchronous rotation and put a planet in a day-night cycle,” Leconte informed.

So far, scientists have thought that exoplanets are contrary to that of the Earth as they always show their same side to their star, with no atmospheric change or day and night.

Since exoplanets rotate in sync with their star, there is always one hemisphere facing it while the other hemisphere is in perpetual cold or darkness.

But the new study suggests that as exoplanets rotate around their stars, they spin at such a speed causing a day-night cycle similar to Earth.

“If we are correct, there is no permanent, cold night side on exoplanets causing water to remain trapped in a gigantic ice sheet,” Leconte concluded in a paper that appeared in the journal Science Express.


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