The fact is that wherever there’s an unexplored planet, there’s a possibility that life may exist. The question is whether we’ll find it or not. Astronomers have announced a string of new discoveries about exoplanets, many of which are promising in terms of supporting life. One of these finds, announced by researchers at The Cambridge University, brings us one step closer to finding life beyond Earth in the galaxy.
The team found what they believe is a new exoplanet class containing ocean worlds, planets with high temperatures, and large sizes. Scientists named them Hycean planets. What is more important, these exoplanets have hydrogen in their atmosphere, which offers researchers a reason to believe that life might exist there. Astronomers hope to find microbial lifeforms or conditions that would allow them to live. “It’s exciting that habitable conditions could exist on planets so different from Earth,” study co-author Anjali Piette declared.
Researchers believe they have a good chance to find certain biosignatures, including oxygen, ozone, methane, and nitrous oxide, on these planets. Spectroscopic observations would provide the information they need regarding the biosignatures. However, scientists need a more complex tool for that. Luckily, the James Webb Space Telescope will be launched this year, and hopefully, it will help scientists explore the Hycean worlds.
“Essentially, when we’ve been looking for these various molecular signatures, we have been focusing on planets similar to Earth, which is a reasonable place to start. But we think Hycean planets offer a better chance of finding several trace biosignatures. A biosignature detection would transform our understanding of life in the universe. We need to be open about where we expect to find life and what form that life could take, as nature continues to surprise us in often unimaginable ways,” explained Nikku Madhusudhan, the lead researcher from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy.