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Habitable zone where we may find alien life is expanded by new study

Professor Amri Wandel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has recently conducted groundbreaking research that challenges and expands our understanding of habitable exoplanets. His study, published in the Astronomical Journal, emphasizes the crucial role of subglacial liquid water in redefining the boundaries of the traditional Habitable Zone.

Goldilocks Zone 

The classical concept of the Habitable Zone, often informally referred to as the “Goldilocks Zone,” is typically defined as the area surrounding a star where surface liquid water can exist, potentially supporting life as we know it. 

Professor Wandel’s research, however, presents a novel viewpoint, suggesting that the presence of subglacial liquid water can significantly extend this zone.

Expanding the Habitable Zone

A key finding of the study is the potential for expanding the Habitable Zone inwardly, especially for tidally locked planets orbiting close to M-dwarf stars. These stars are frequently considered prime candidates for detecting biosignatures on exoplanets. 

The research details how an atmosphere and liquid water could coexist on these planets, thereby extending the Habitable Zone beyond previously considered limits.

Additionally, the study proposes that subglacial liquid water could expand the Habitable Zone beyond its outer conventional boundaries. This revelation opens up the possibility of finding liquid water on a wider array of exoplanets, enhancing the prospects for discovering extraterrestrial life.

Study significance 

This research gains further significance in light of recent observations by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). 

The potential detection of atmospheric water vapor on GJ 486 b, an Earth-sized rocky exoplanet, and evidence of an ocean on K2-18b, a Super Earth exoplanet, suggest the presence of liquid water, possibly even organic chemistry, and the potential for life. These observations provide concrete data to explore the viability of habitable conditions on exoplanets orbiting M-dwarf stars.

Study implications

“This work demonstrates that the Habitable Zone of red dwarfs is likely significantly broader than previously assumed, and planets within it have the capacity to maintain water and an atmosphere,” explained Wandel.

“The latter conclusion is empirically supported by recent findings of water on such exoplanets by the Webb Telescope, particularly in K2-18 b, as predicted in the article submitted two months prior. In particular, it may optimize the target allocation and priority for biosignature research by JWST.”

Fresh perspective

The study delves into the survival of water on terrestrial planets in close orbits around M-dwarf stars, potentially within a subglacial melting layer, offering a fresh perspective on the longevity of liquid water. It also considers how the detection of water on various exoplanets can help define their atmospheric properties.

In summary, this study sheds light on the crucial role of subglacial liquid water in broadening the Habitable Zone of exoplanets, thereby enhancing our understanding of potential life-supporting environments in the universe and the exciting possibilities of life existing beyond Earth.

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