Distant Exoplanets Could Live in ‘Terminator Zones’: Study

NEW DELHI: According to a new study, the ‘terminator zones’ on distant exoplanets, or the regions where the ‘day’ side of the planet meets the ‘night’ side, may harbor extraterrestrial life. astronomers from University of California, Irvine (UCI), the US describes the “terminator” as the dividing line between the day and night sides of a planet, one side always facing its star and the other side always dark.
Terminator zones may be in the “exact” temperature zone between too hot and too cold, they say in the study.
“These planets have a permanent sun side and a permanent night side,” he said Anna is a wolfA postdoctoral researcher in the UCI Department of Physics and Astronomy led the new work, published in The Astrophysical Journal.
Lobo added that such planets are especially common because they orbit stars that make up about 70 percent of the visible stars in the night sky, M-dwarfs that are dimmer than our Sun.
“You want a planet that’s in the sweet spot of the right temperature to have liquid water,” Lobo said, because liquid water, as scientists know, is an essential ingredient for life.
“This planet is very hot on the day side, uninhabitable, and at night it freezes and freezes. The night side can have huge glaciers,” Lobo said.
According to the study, Lobo, along with Aomawa Shields, associate professor of physics and astronomy at UCI, modeled the climate of the terminator planets using software commonly used to model our planet’s climate, but with several adjustments, including slowing down the planet’s rotation.
One key to this finding, Lobo said, was pinpointing which terminator region of the planet could hold liquid water.
If the planet is covered mostly by water, then the water facing the star could evaporate and cover the entire planet in a thick layer of vapor. But if there is land, there should be no such effect.
“It’s shown that if the home planet has more land, what we call a ‘terminator-survivability’ scenario is much easier to live on,” Shields said.
“These new and exotic living conditions that our team is discovering are no longer science fiction — Ana has worked to show that such conditions can be climate-sustainable,” Shields said.
According to the study, astronomers have been able to show for the first time that such planets can maintain a habitable climate confined to this terminator zone.
Historically, researchers have studied mostly ocean-covered exoplanets in search of life candidates.
However, this research could increase astronomers’ chances of hunting for life.
“We’re trying to focus on water-limited planets that, even if they don’t have widespread oceans, may have lakes or other liquid bodies of water, and that climate might actually be very promising,” Lobo said.
“By studying these exotic climates, we increase our chances of finding and correctly identifying a habitable planet in the near future,” Lobo said.

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