Scientists seemed on the mass of super-Earths, a form of planet frequent throughout the cosmos however not current in our personal photo voltaic system. These rocky worlds are a number of occasions bigger than Earth, however the staff’s evaluation of known super-Earths reveals one thing astounding: Many of them may be literal water worlds.
According to the research, many of these planets may be half water. By comparability, water is only a tiny fraction of Earth’s mass. But that doesn’t imply these super-Earths are pleasant locations to reside. The Harvard-led staff decided that these planets with 1.5 occasions Earth’s radius or beneath would be terrestrial, or rocky.
Super-Earths above 2.5 Earth radius may extra like tiny variations of Neptune or Uranus. The two water-dominated planets in our photo voltaic system are removed from life pleasant. Such hulking super-Earths would be enshrouded by a mostly-water vapor ambiance. Further beneath, there may be oceans at excessive pressures and temperatures — between 390 and 930 levels Fahrenheit (200 to 500 Celsius).
But that doesn’t essentially preclude life.
“Life could develop in certain near-surface layers on these water worlds when the pressure, temperature and chemical conditions are appropriate,” says the examine’s lead creator, Li Zeng of Harvard University. Zeng additionally believes that these planets may kind extra like a gasoline big, with a core deep beneath a dense ambiance.
“One has to realize that, although water appears to be precious and rarer on Earth and other inner solar system terrestrial planets, it is in fact one of the most abundant substance in the universe, since oxygen is the third most abundant element after hydrogen and helium,” Zeng mentioned.
And primarily based on the staff’s modeling, as much as 35 p.c of known planets may be water worlds. That might imply the approaching years will result in the invention of an entire lot of exo-oceans — and an entire host of new questions.
The scientists introduced their analysis Friday on the Goldschmidt Conference, the world’s preeminent convention on geochemistry.
This article initially appeared on Discovermagazine.com.