Friday, September 14, 2012

Extreme Life Forms on Eccentric Exoplanets?

Extreme Life Forms Might be Able to Survive on Eccentric Exoplanets

A hypothetical planet is depicted here moving through the habitable zone and then further out into a long, cold winter. A hypothetical planet is depicted here moving through the habitable zone and then further out into a long, cold winter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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September 11, 2012

Astronomers have discovered a veritable rogues' gallery of odd exoplanets -- from scorching hot worlds with molten surfaces to frigid ice balls.

And while the hunt continues for the elusive "blue dot" -- a planet with roughly the same characteristics as Earth -- new research reveals that life might actually be able to survive on some of the many exoplanetary oddballs that exist.

"When we're talking about a habitable planet, we're talking about a world where liquid water can exist," said Stephen Kane, a scientist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "A planet needs to be the right distance from its star -- not too hot and not too cold." Determined by the size and heat of the star, this temperature range is commonly referred to as the "habitable zone" around a star.

Kane and fellow Exoplanet Science Institute scientist Dawn Gelino have created a resource called the "Habitable Zone Gallery." It calculates the size and distance of the habitable zone for each exoplanetary system that has been discovered and shows which exoplanets orbit in this so-called "goldilocks" zone. The Habitable Zone Gallery can be found at www.hzgallery.org . The study describing the research appears in the Astrobiology journal and is available at http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.2429 .

More: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-285&cid=release_2012-285

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA.

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