Although we still don’t know where they are, we are finding out where they most likely aren’t.
In physics, a lot of time is spent looking for something while having no idea what you’re looking for. You could say it was a wild guess. Some of the largest scientific projects, including the search for dark matter and antimatter and the effort to finish the Standard Model of Particle Physics, are summed up by this contradictory undertaking.
But it’s particularly evident in our search for extraterrestrial life.
In order to look for extraterrestrial life, we can focus our telescopes on an almost infinite cosmos, but at this moment, all we have experience with is life as we know it. Of course, aliens might resemble us in every way. Or, they might be goopy, methane-and-intangible-brain creatures trapped in the fourth dimension.
However, last week, researchers revealed a finding that they think could “dramatically restrict” the difficult hunt for extraterrestrial life. The team explains why an Earth-like planet orbiting a M dwarf, the most prevalent kind of star in the cosmos, appears to have no atmosphere in a research that was recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
This suggests that the majority of other Earth-like planets orbiting all those other M dwarfs also lack atmospheres.
They would therefore be unlikely to support life, at least not life as we understand it.
According to co-author of the study and UC Riverside astrophysicist Michelle Hill, “it’s likely that this planet’s condition could be a terrible sign for planets even further away from this type of star.” We’ll learn more about this from the James Webb Space Telescope, which will study planets like these.
Hill does, however, express some optimism, noting that a planet may “possibly sustain an atmosphere” if it is sufficiently removed from a M dwarf.
Returning to the “scouring for the unknown” part, the team’s discovery is essential for this kind of research in extraterrestrial studies because the most effective method for completing such a task is through process of elimination.
The search might be limited by any fresh information about the potential locations of these entities.
This land is also the future of Mercury
The atmosphere-free orb that the study’s researchers focused on is known as GJ 1252b.
It’s slightly bigger than Earth, which is part of what makes it “Earth-like,” but it’s much hotter since it’s far closer to its star than Earth is to the sun. In fact, the temperature there during the daytime was calculated by GJ 1252b’s infrared radiation measurements to be 2,242 degrees Fahrenheit (1,228 degrees Celsius). That is so hot that it practically melts the copper, silver, and gold that are on its surface.
The researchers came to the conclusion that GJ 1252b has no atmosphere due to its extreme heat and very low surface pressure.
“Even if the planet contained 700 times as much carbon as Earth does, it would not have an atmosphere. It would begin to pile up before tapering off and eroding away “Co-author of the study and UC Riverside astrophysicist Stephen Kane stated in a statement. In addition, it appears that the alien planet makes two orbits around its star per day.
The radiation pressure from the star is so great that it can completely destroy a planet’s atmosphere, according to Hill.
The research team makes a comparison between GJ 1252b’s current situation and Mercury’s final fate in our own solar system.
Because Mercury is far closer to the sun than Earth, it is much hotter and has a lot thinner atmosphere than GJ 1252b. Those few air atoms swiftly escape into space due to the planet’s high heat. In a similar vein, the atmosphere on Earth gradually depletes over time, yet phenomena like volcanic emissions serve to partially restore the lost protection. Our planet’s distance from the sun and consequent cooling contribute as well.
There are 5,000 stars near Earth alone that are mostly M-dwarfs, so you can imagine how far these findings about M dwarfs may go (assuming the worst, that planets around such stars do really lack atmospheres). That would eliminate a lot of possibilities for discovering extraterrestrial life, but we also need to take into account the fact that our solar neighbourhood has roughly 1,000 stars that are identical to the sun.
And that’s just a single molecule in the cosmic ocean, in our approximate area of the universe.
So, certainly, aliens are still a mystery to us, and finding them will take time. However, at least we now know where they are most likely not.