Astronomers Discover Exoplanets Where Life Could Develop As It Did On Earth

Posted: Aug 5 2018, 12:41am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 6 2018, 12:03am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Astronomers Discover Exoplanets Where Life Could Develop as it did on Earth
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Sufficient ultraviolet (UV) light can produce same chemical conditions that may have led to life on Earth.

Since the launch of NASA's Kepler telescope, scientists have discovered thousands of planets outside our solar system. Some of those planets are rocky Earth-like and might be capable of supporting life.

Researchers suggest that the chances for life to develop on the surface of a rocky planet largely depend on the type and strength of light given off by its host star. Any planet orbiting a star should not be pummeled by large amounts of X-ray radiation from its host star. Ultraviolet light from a star could affect life directly through high radiation doses and indirectly through stripping away planetary atmospheres.

Researchers have identified a group of exoplanets which reside within their star’s habitable zone. Among those exoplanets is Kepler 452b which is considered a super-Earth-size planet. Its star gives off sufficient ultraviolet light and could trigger same chemical reactions that produced the building blocks of life on Earth.

“This work allows us to narrow down the best places to search for life," said Dr. Paul Rimmer, a researcher at University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory."It brings us just a little bit closer to addressing the question of whether we are alone in the universe."

Life on Earth, as we know it, is carbon-based and it interacted with other elements in various ways under UV light from the sun. The chemicals produced from these interactions generated the building blocks of RNA or DNA.

In the laboratory, researchers recreated these chemical reactions under UV lamps and managed to develop the precursors to the essential components of living cells. Then they conducted a series of laboratory experiments to measure how quickly the building blocks of life can be formed with and without UV light. The experiment in the dark did not form the building blocks of life, while the experiment under the lights resulted in the necessary building blocks.

"There is chemistry that happens in the dark: it's slower than the chemistry that happens in the light, but it's there," said co-author Professor Didier Queloz from the Cavendish Laboratory. "We wanted to see how much light it would take for the light chemistry to win out over the dark chemistry."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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