‘Could find life in two years’ as scientists focus on ‘Hycean’ worlds in space.
Scientists are focusing on ‘Hycean’ worlds in space and believe they could find life in two years.
Space may be on the cusp of a quantum leap in the search for life elsewhere as scientists focus their attention on “Hycean” worlds – planets covered in water and with rich hydrogen atmospheres.
For years, scientists have been looking for signs of life on worlds other than Earth. On planets like Mars, microorganisms like methanogens have frequently brought hope. The Red Planet drew a lot of attention in 2019, particularly after the Curiosity rover discovered methane in the atmosphere.
Further investigation, however, showed nothing.
Then, this year’s stunning discovery of phosphine on Venus showed that the deadly gas must be produced by life somewhere on the planet.
Nothing, however, has changed.Astronomers have generally treaded gingerly when hunting for life on distant worlds.
They’re looking for worlds the size of Earth, with similar surface temperatures and habitable atmospheres.
Things could, however, change now.
A group of scholars from the University of Cambridge has uncovered a new class of habitable planets that might completely change the game.
Exoplanets termed “Hycean” planets — meaning hot, ocean-covered worlds with hydrogen-rich atmospheres — are much more frequent and easy to find than Earth-like planets.
:More importantly, astronomers anticipate that looking for Hycean planets will lead to the finding of biosignatures of life outside our Solar System within the next two or three years.According to the BBC Science Focus magazine, Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy’s Dr Nikku Madhusudhan claims researchers have created a large window of possibility for finding new life.
“The discovery of hycean planets opens up a whole new path in our hunt for extraterrestrial life,” he said.
“Basically, we’ve been hunting for these distinct molecular signatures on worlds similar to Earth, which is a fantastic place to start.”
“However, we believe hycean planets have a better chance of detecting a wide range of trace biosignatures.”
Planets can be up to 2.6 times the size of Earth, with temperatures in their atmospheres reaching 200 degrees Celsius.
Their oceanic conditions, on the other hand, may be similar to those found on Earth, allowing them to support microbial life.
A vast proportion of the exoplanets discovered so far fall into this group.
Because of their bigger diameters, higher surface temperatures, and hydrogen-rich atmospheres, the atmospheric signals of hycean planets are simpler to detect than those of Earth-like planets.
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