The University of East Anglia – UEA – journal Astrobiology had, in the latest edition, a fascinating report about a new study, in which researchers concluded that on exo-planets, there will need to be oceans present, if life is to ever have evolved on them, as indeed was the case on our own Earth.
There is no doubt whatever that it was the oceans which spawned the existence of life here, suggesting that, throughout the universe in fact planetary habitability may well depend upon there being enough liquid water available, as large bodies of water are thought to stabilize the atmospheres on any world.
UEA school of mathematics spokesman David Stevens commented that it was now known that uninhabitable exo-planets tend to be either too close or too far from their sun. For water to exist, the planets have to lie within the so-called Goldilocks habitable zones, which depend upon distance from the sun and temperatures, though many previous habitability models have not taken proper account of the climate impact of oceans.
There is now little doubt that liquid water is vitally important to the evolution of life, and our own solar system is a wonderful example of how small these so-called Goldilocks zones are, because where Venus is a boiling, inhospitable world, and Mars is an arid desert, Earth is perfectly situated, with a stable climate and gigantic reserves of liquid water, so that life thrives on it.
What Steven’s Team actually did was to create computer models that high-lighted just how vitally important such huge bodies of water are to the appearance and encouragement of life-forms, because they show an extraordinary capacity for climate control, ensuring that there are no dramatic temperature wings around the planet concerned.
Mars is actually now believed to be located at the furthest reaches of our own sun’s Goldilocks, astronomers certain that it was once possessed of large bodies of water and a much thicker atmosphere. Why the red planet lost the atmosphere and the oceans is a matter of debate, but these days air temperature fluctuations of over 100 degrees Celsius are far from unusual.
Global oceans would, the team believe, make larger areas of any ocean-supporting exo-planet suitable for life, if it was in the habitable zone, so what the planet hunters really need to find, as they search the stars for another earth-type planet somewhere, is a world with heaps of water on it. Did I hear somebody mention Europa?
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