Evidence of extraterrestrial life could come from dying stars




Evidence of extraterrestrial life could come from dying stars


Even the dying stars are planets with life – but what can we say, even near the pulsar planets may be . If such a system with life and there, we will be able to detect them as early as the next decade. Such a reassuring verdict came as a result of the theoretical study of Earth-like planets around white dwarfs. Researchers have found that we could easily detect oxygen in the atmosphere white dwarf. It is much easier than looking for it on Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars.

“In search of evidence of extraterrestrial biological life of the first stars to be white dwarfs,” – said Avi Loeb, a theorist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA) and the director of the Institute of Theory and Computation.

When a star like the Sun dies, it discards the outer layers, leaving himself a hot core, which is called a white dwarf. Typically, a white dwarf the size of Earth. He slowly cools and fades with time, but can remain warm enough for billions of years.

As the white dwarf is much smaller and dimmer than the Sun, the planet would be much closer to its surface remains liquid water and the conditions suitable for life. The habitable planet will circle around the white dwarf, making one revolution in 10 hours, a distance of about one and a half million kilometers.

Before the star becomes a white dwarf, it swells into a red giant, seizing and destroying all nearest planet. Thus, the planet has to be in the habitable zone of the star after the explosion. Planet could have formed from the remaining dust and gas (sometimes in these conditions occur very strange planet ) or to migrate closer to the star from a distance.

If there are planets in the habitable zones of white dwarfs, we would have to find them before the study. The content of heavy elements on the surface of white dwarfs suggests that a substantial number of them have severe rocky planets. Loeb and his colleague Dan Maoz (Tel Aviv) believe that the next survey 500 dwarfs will reveal one or more habitable land.

The best method to find such planets – it is a transit search, the search for stars that dimmed when a planet passes in front of them. With the size of the white dwarf to Earth, Earth-like planets will block most of the light and give a clear signal.

More importantly, we can study the atmosphere of transiting planets. When the light of the white dwarf passes through the ring of air surrounding the silhouette disk of the planet, the atmosphere absorbs some of the starlight. As a result, there are chemical fingerprints indicating that the air contains water vapor, or even vital oxygen.

Astronomers are particularly interested in finding oxygen because oxygen can be constantly updated (as it is on Earth) in the process of photosynthesis, with the participation of plant life. If all life disappeared from the planet, the atmosphere would have been deprived of oxygen quickly, which would be dissolved in the oceans and on the oxidized surface. Thus, the presence of large amounts of oxygen in the atmosphere of a distant planet would indicate a probable life there.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which should start by the end of this decade, promises to “sniff” the atmosphere of distant worlds. Loeb and Maoz created an artificial spectrum that JWST would see if he found a habitable planet rotating around a white dwarf. Scientists have found that oxygen and water vapor can be detected only after a few hours of the time of observation.

«JWST will be our best hope in the search for habitable planets in the near future,” – emphasizes Maoz.

Recent research astronomers Courtney Dressing and David Charbonneau showed that the nearest habitable planet, probably in orbit a red dwarf (cold little star, which is the process of nuclear fusion). Since red dwarf, which is also smaller and dimmer than the Sun, the larger and brighter white dwarf, his glare was not allowed to observe the atmosphere from a nearby planet. JWST will have to spend hundreds of hours of observation to determine the composition of the atmosphere.

“Although the nearest habitable planet may revolve around a red dwarf star, it is possible we will find life and closer to the orbit of the white dwarf,” – says Loeb.

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Tags: Extraterrestrial life , the universe , Exoplanets .


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