Is there life in space? Well, astronomers from the University of Cambridge looking for signs of life in space are now saying it is a ‘promising possibility’.
Previously, space researchers have been looking for ET on planets that are ‘similar to earth’ including earth’s size, mass, temperature, and atmosphere. However, after recent work, the researchers have discovered that there are more promising possibilities for finding signs of life on newly identified habitable planets known as hycean exoplanets.
This discovery came after astronomers found a planet known as ‘mini-Neptune’ to be habitable because it is warm, ocean-covered and has a hydrogen-rich atmosphere. It was this discovery that led to hycean exoplanets now being the focus for signs of life in space too due to their similar atmospheric properties, while also being ‘easier to observe’… bonus!
Hycean planets are BIG! They can sometimes be more than twice the size of the earth’s radius and contain 10 times the mass, and they can have warmer atmospheric temperatures too. But that’s not all, the makeup of these planets means it is more possible for scientists to search for a wider array of molecules and life too.
The lead research author from the University of Cambridge, Dr Nikku Madhusudhan said that focusing on hycean planets could accelerate the efforts to find signs of life in space, saying:
“Hyceans are basically water worlds with hydrogen-rich atmospheres. We are saying that within two to three years we may see the first biosignature detection if these planets host life.”
Dr Madhusudhan went on to say that the development of the James Webb space telescope – which is due to launch in November – could help aid the search for life in space.