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‘Super Earth’ Discovered Could be More Habitable than Our Own Planet

This article was originally published at StateOfUnion.org. Publications approved for syndication have permission to republish this article, such as Microsoft News, Yahoo News, Newsbreak, UltimateNewswire and others. To learn more about syndication opportunities, visit About Us.
Space race

The space race initiated in the 1940s heralded an era of exploration, propelling the quest for greater cosmic discoveries beyond our solar system in the ensuing decades.

Distant planets

Among the paramount inquiries occupying space researchers is the exploration of life on distant planets. Presuming terrestrial humans are the sole life form in the vast universe would be presumptuous, prompting scientists to dedicate years to devising diverse formulas, theories, and conjectures on the potential conditions for life on alien worlds.

Liquid water

The fundamental necessity for liquid water on a planetary body to sustain life stands as a cornerstone in the quest for extraterrestrial habitats. While predicated on the assumption that all life forms in the galaxy would necessitate water, it serves as a crucial criterion for scientists to initiate their search amidst the vast array of planets within the galaxy.

Goldilocks Zone

Historically, scientists have relied on the concept of the “Goldilocks Zone” to identify planets potentially harboring liquid water. This parameter assesses the distance between a planet and its parent star, ensuring the optimal conditions for maintaining liquid water. Proximity to the star could lead to evaporation, while distance may result in freezing.

Astrophysical Journal

A recent study published in the Astrophysical Journal introduced a novel method that integrates a broader spectrum of data points. These include transit data, stellar characteristics, and previously established constraints on planetary emitted flux. This comprehensive approach aims to offer a more precise evaluation of a planet’s potential to sustain life.

Uncertain

The age of Kepler-442 remains uncertain. It is plausible that the star has transitioned beyond its tumultuous initial phase, enhancing the habitable conditions within the Goldilocks zone of its planetary system.

Exploration

The vast expanse of the cosmos poses formidable hurdles for scientists striving to conduct thorough investigations of distant planets to assess their habitability. Unlike the luxury of firsthand exploration, space scientists are constrained by the inability to physically observe these celestial bodies.

1200 light-years away

Situated approximately 1200 light-years away from Earth in the Lyra constellation, Kepler-442b presents a formidable distance for direct exploration. A light-year spans around 5.88 trillion miles, rendering it unattainable with current technological capabilities, necessitating thousands of years for a journey to this distant planet.

Hospitable atmosphere

The Goldilocks Zone represents the ideal orbital distance for a planet to possess liquid water and the potential for a hospitable atmosphere. This metric has proven effective in assisting scientists in pinpointing numerous planets with potential life-supporting characteristics solely based on their proximity to their respective stars.

Habitability

Despite the efficacy of the Goldilocks Zone concept, scientists have recently devised a novel method for evaluating a planet’s potential habitability. This new index transcends the traditional reliance on the Goldilocks Zone metric, offering a fresh perspective on determining the likelihood of a planet supporting life.

Habitability measurement

The introduction of a new habitability measurement method has sparked intrigue, with initial results already demonstrating its efficacy. This innovative metric assigns habitability ratings to planets based on gathered data, with Earth receiving a commendable score of 0.829.

Kepler-442b

Notably, another celestial body, Kepler-442b, obtained a slightly higher rating on this scale with a score of 0.836. This implies that it boasts a more hospitable environment for human habitation compared to Earth itself.

Classified

Kepler-442b is classified as a super Earth exoplanet, indicating its larger size relative to Earth but falling short of the colossal dimensions of gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. With a mass equivalent to 2.36 Earths, it completes a single orbit around its star in 112.3 days.

Unveiled

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft unveiled the existence of Kepler-442b in 2015 through the transit method. This technique involves the spacecraft detecting the dimming effect caused by a planet passing in front of its host star, facilitating the identification and characterization of distant celestial bodies.

Crucial role

Positioned within the Goldilocks zone of its stellar system, Kepler-442b initially appeared promising for potential habitability based on conventional assessments. However, the star’s size plays a crucial role in this evaluation.

2.9 billion years

Kepler-442, the star around which the planet orbits, belongs to the K-type main sequence category and boasts an age of approximately 2.9 billion years. In contrast, our sun, aged at 4.6 billion years, shines hotter than Kepler-442. K-type main sequence stars, smaller than our sun, exhibit extended lifespans, potentially enduring for 18-34 billion years.

Sustain life

This suggests that Kepler-442b could sustain life for a considerably longer duration than Earth. Nonetheless, the star’s size presents certain challenges. Due to heightened stellar activity in their early stages, K-type main sequence stars emit intense solar winds that might impact the habitability of orbiting planets.

Extensive research

While the habitability rating assigned to 442b using the new metric shows promise, extensive research is essential before definitive habitability metrics can be established.

Significant challenge

The enigma surrounding the atmospheric composition and surface conditions of Kepler-442b persists as a significant challenge. The study highlighted in the Astrophysical Journal underscored that a higher habitability rating does not automatically signify a more Earth-like environment conducive to known life forms; rather, it indicates the potential suitability for life as we understand it.

Gravity

Despite these challenges, current methodologies offer avenues for deducing certain characteristics. The dimensions of Kepler-442b and the inferred planetary composition suggest that the planet’s surface gravity would be roughly 30% stronger than that of Earth, providing valuable insights into its physical properties.

Slower rotation

Moreover, due to its closer proximity to its star compared to Earth’s distance from the sun, Kepler-442b is presumed to have a significantly slower rotation rate than Earth. This slower rotation could result in days lasting for weeks or even months, a stark contrast to Earth’s 24-hour day cycle.

Axial tilt

The planet’s minimal axial tilt offers insights into its potential environmental conditions. With a likely negligible tilt, Kepler-442b may lack the seasonal changes induced by axial tilt experienced on Earth and Mars.

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