Are Exoplanets with Large Oceans Common in the Galaxy? What a New Study Says

Liquid water is a key component for allowing life to exist. Life could theoretically exist in forms that scientists don’t know about. Otherwise, life as the way we’re all familiar with is based on four main elements: oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen.

No living organism on Earth can survive without water. A whole ocean of water is a strong hint for the presence of life. Therefore, if you find a planet with such an ocean, the chances are big that there could be some alien life forms dwelling there. Luckily or not, a new study says that such planets are actually common in our Universe.

Moons from the Solar System are qualifying

Scientists are almost certain that several moons from our Solar System may have large oceans beneath their surfaces. This applies to Europa, Ganymede, Ceres, Callisto, Enceladus, Titan, and more. And liquid water automatically means that organic molecules and tidal heating could also be found, which are the basic ingredients for life. Planetary scientist Dr. Lynnae C. Quick and her colleagues from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center wondered if this could mean that moons and exoplanets with the same similarities can be located elsewhere in the Universe.

Dr. Lynnae C. Quick said:

Plumes of water erupt from Europa and Enceladus, so we can tell that these bodies have subsurface oceans beneath their ice shells, and they have energy that drives the plumes, which are two requirements for life as we know it. So if we’re thinking about these places as being possibly habitable, maybe bigger versions of them in other planetary systems are habitable too.

Dr. Quick and her team began to conduct an analysis to see how likely ocean worlds from other solar systems are. They selected 53 exoplanets that are about the same size as Earth. They then sought to determine how much heat each of them was generating. By knowing how much heat is released, scientists can figure out if the exoplanet could be habitable.

Ocean worlds must be common in the Galaxy

The scientific analysis confirmed that over a quarter of the 53 exoplanets that were sampled (26%) were likely to possess vast oceans and that the majority of these planets would be capable of setting free more energy than either Europa or Enceladus. But if you take 53 exoplanets from the galaxy randomly and most of them possess some precise characteristics, chances are insanely high that the majority of the exoplanets from the whole galaxy would be the same.

The study appeared in the journal Publications from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

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