Water worlds are more common in the universe than previously thought

(ORDO NEWS) — The results of a new study, published in the journal Science, suggest that many more planets have more water than previously thought. Some planets may even be half water, half rock, the study says.

The climate of our planet is stable and favorable due to the water cycle: rain – rivers – ocean – rain. Water is the basis of all life on Earth. A water planet is always at the top of the list when scientists debate where to look for signs of life throughout the galaxy.

There could be far more water-rich planets than previously thought, with some of them made up of half water and half rock, according to a study published in the journal Science. Instead of flowing in the form of oceans or rivers, all this water is most likely enclosed in rocks.

Rafael Luque, the first author of the new work and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, said it’s amazing to see so many water worlds orbiting the most common type of star in the galaxy. “This has huge implications for the search for habitable planets.”

Finding planets in distant solar systems is becoming easier with more advanced telescope instruments. Researchers can more easily identify demographic patterns if they use a large sample, just as they can see individual-level trends if they look at the population of an entire city.

The research team, led by Luque and co-author Enric Palle, looked at the group of planets observed around an M-dwarf star and studied them at the population level. Known to be the most common stars in our galaxy, many planets have been discovered around these stars.

Our ability to see planets is limited because stars are much brighter than their planets. However, scientists detect faint signs of a planet’s influence on its star by measuring its shadow as it passes in front of it or its orbit. The actual appearance of these planets remains a mystery.

Palle says that different ways of detecting planets provide different information. The diameter of a planet can be determined by capturing the shadow created when a planet crosses the road in front of its star. The mass of a planet can be determined by measuring its gravitational pull on a star.

Scientists can determine the composition of a planet by combining these two measurements. Maybe it’s a gaseous giant planet like Jupiter, or maybe it’s a small, dense, rocky planet like Earth.

Individual planets have been analyzed, but the entire known population of such planets within the Milky Way galaxy has been analyzed much less frequently. Scientists began to observe an amazing picture when they analyzed 43 planets.

Many of the planets had a density that, judging by their size, could not have been made from pure rock.

These planets are probably made up of a combination of rocks and water, or maybe some other type of light molecules. You can compare lifting a soccer ball to lifting a bowling ball: they are about the same size, but one of them is lighter.

One can imagine that these planets are completely covered by deep oceans, as in Kevin Costner’s film “Waterworld”.

Despite this, these planets are so close to their suns that any water on their surface would be in a supercritical gaseous state, which would increase their radius. However, the samples don’t show this, Luke said. “This suggests that the water is not in the form of a surface ocean.”

Alternatively, water may be mixed with rock or trapped in pockets below the surface. A similar situation is thought to exist under Jupiter’s moon Europa, which is thought to contain liquid water.

According to exoplanet researcher Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago, whose group Luke joined to conduct further research, “I was amazed when I saw this analysis – I assumed they were all dry, rocky planets.”

Scientists have found that many exoplanets form further in their solar systems and migrate inward, consistent with an old theory of exoplanet formation.

Despite the strong evidence, Bean said he and other scientists would like to see “smoking proof” that one of these planets has water. That is what JWST, Hubble’s successor, hopes to achieve.


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