Space

Simulations suggest Kepler 62-f is "a strong candidate for a habitable planet"

Simulations suggest Kepler 62-...
Computer simulations have revealed that exoplanet Kepler 62-f may be habitable
Computer simulations have revealed that exoplanet Kepler 62-f may be habitable
View 1 Image
Computer simulations have revealed that exoplanet Kepler 62-f may be habitable
1/1
Computer simulations have revealed that exoplanet Kepler 62-f may be habitable

It's been over 20 years since the first planet orbiting a Sun-like star outside our solar system was discovered, and at last count the grand total stands at 3,268. Unfortunately, only a handful of exoplanets orbit within the habitable zone around their stars. A team of astronomers has set their sights on one such exoplanet, and through computer simulations determined that it could harbor a rocky composition, oceans and, potentially, even life.

Kepler-62f was discovered in 2013 by the Kepler telescope, which was launched in 2009 and is responsible for identifying 2,325 exoplanets to date. Kepler-62f is approximately 1,200 light-years away from us, about 40 percent larger than Earth and orbits its parent star within the habitable zone, where conditions may be just right for liquid water to form.

The study, led by Aomawa Shields of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) physics and astronomy department, ran computer simulations testing different combinations of orbit and atmosphere possibilities. They tested different thicknesses of the exoplanet's atmosphere, from exactly the same as Earth's up to 12 times thicker, and different concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air, up to 2,500 times more than Earth levels. In many of these scenarios, the team found that the planet could be habitable.

"We found there are multiple atmospheric compositions that allow it to be warm enough to have surface liquid water," says Shields. "This makes it a strong candidate for a habitable planet."

According to the study's lead author, in order for the exoplanet to be habitable throughout its year, Kepler-62f would need to have an atmosphere made up entirely of carbon dioxide, and for it to be three to five times thicker than our home planet's. At the distance the planet orbits its star, Shields says, it would need carbon dioxide to build up in its atmosphere at these levels in order to keep warm.

"But if it doesn't have a mechanism to generate lots of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere to keep temperatures warm, and all it had was an Earth-like amount of carbon dioxide, certain orbital configurations could allow Kepler-62f's surface temperatures to temporarily get above freezing during a portion of its year," Shields explains. "And this might help melt ice sheets formed at other times in the planet's orbit."

The orbital path possibilities were calculated using a computer model called HNBody, and its climate was simulated using the Community Climate System Model and the Laboratoire de Meteorologie Dynamique Generic model. This was the first time the results of these two types of models were combined to study an exoplanet.

The technique could be applied to other exoplanets to determine the likelihood of their habitability, where more solid data is yet to be collected by telescopes.

"It will allow us to generate a prioritized list of targets to follow up on more closely with the next generation of telescopes that can look for the atmospheric fingerprints of life on another world," says Shield.

The research was published in the journal Astrobiology.

Source: UCLA

9 comments
OrangPendek
All "possibly habitable planet" articles should be balanced with a reminder. That reminder is this: If a civilization with the same level of tech as ours on another earth-like world were to see our solar system, their journalists would proclaim that Earth, Venus and Mars have a good chance to be habitable. Of course, we know that Venus and Mars are both awful places.
StevenParker
"concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air, up to 2,500 times more than Earth" and we are about to destroy this one over slightly less than double the CO2 concentration in the air.
AzzyMir
Are these scientists kidding? Do you realize how far this planet is and what it would take to get there? Our current understanding of science totally precludes our going there. Using the term habitable is tantamount to telling s serious lie.
Timelord
@AzzyMir, they're not saying "habitable for humans." They're saying habitable for some form of indigenous life, probably simple organisms.
Timelord
@StevenParker, seriously? That you bring up such a ridiculous argument confirms that opponents of climate change theory have virtually nonexistent knowledge of science. Conditions are different in that solar system. Kepler 62 is a smaller, cooler star than our sun, hence the need for more greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, your cavalier use of the word "destroy" shows your bias. We are making serious changes to the world which won't destroy it, but which will make life as humans much more difficult, from submerging low-lying coastlines and islands to changing agricultural patterns, damaging fisheries, causing more extreme weather and untold other adverse effects. It's sheer hubris to think we can easily handle everything a warming world will throw at us.
MarcStizzy
There are easily thousands if not millions of parameters that have to be simultaneous and within tight tolerances for life to be possible. The habitable zone is literally only a tiny sliver of what a planet needs to support life the way ours does. The chances are near zero that such a planet could really exist that would support life long-term the way it is now.
Road tar
Tardigrades are a prime example of the tenacity and possibility of life in environments that could not possibly support the more complex forms of life here. They can survive in open space.
CharlieSeattle
Is Kepler 62-f habitable? ...Maybe. Reachable in a practical colonizing way? Not quite yet.
Rustin Lee Haase
I 'm a big fan of there being life in outer space. When I hear about a potentially habitable planet I say GREAT!! Its habitable, lets get out there and live there. Forget about aliens. Its real life, the stuff we already know about, that matters right now. SPACEWARD HO!! So far we haven't seen any aliens and SETI@home has found just as many aliens as we have found leprechauns. Its time to get off our comfy couches watching old Star Trek episodes and do some real Star Treking.