Other solar systems may have large numbers of planets that are home to alien life, a new study has found.
Research shows that other parts of the universe can host many habitable planets, unlike our solar system, where the world has the right conditions to flourish in just one life.
Scientists looking for life elsewhere in the universe regularly search for planets in the “habitable zone”, far enough away from their star that the water will not evaporate immediately, but close enough that it will not freeze Will happen.
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Researchers find that finding planets at that specific distance from their star, also known as the Goldilocks zone, is the best hope for finding alien life elsewhere in the universe.
The new study was inspired by looking at a well-known, relatively nearby planetary system – known as Trapist-1, which has at least three planets in its habitable zone.
“It makes me wonder what is the maximum number of habitable planets for a star, and why our star has only one,” ABC Riverside astronomer Stephen Kane, who led the study published in Astronomical Journal This week, said. “It didn’t seem fair!”
To understand how many habitable planets in a solar system might be able to support, researchers created a model that allows them to have planets of different sizes orbiting their stars. This accounts for the ways that those planets interact with each other as they orbit around their star, over theoretical times of millions of years.
He found that our Sun-like star can support six planets, each of them with liquid water and in a habitable state. Other types of stars may support the full seven.
If there are more than that, the planets will get very close to each other, disturbing their orbits.
This research also helped illuminate the reason that our planet has a relatively habitable planet, and conditions that will change. Part of our problem seems to be that the planets in our solar system rotate in an elliptical shape – if their path is more regular and spherical, they minimize contact so that they have more stable orbits.
Jupiter may also deserve some defects to make our solar system so uninhabitable. It is so large – two-and-a-half times the mass of the rest of the planet in the solar system – that hogs space and messes everything up around it, the study suggests.
“This is a big influence on our solar system’s ability to live because it is massive and bothers other orbits,” Kane said.
Research can now help identify other solar systems that may be worth exploring for possible life. This could inform research by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Habitable Exoplanet Observatory, such as NASA Telescope, which is looking through the universe in an attempt to find out which world might have the right conditions to be home.