Solar storms might wipe off entire oceans and atmospheres, destroying life before it can even begin
(Mirror Daily, United States) – The presence of water and an atmosphere are the secret ingredients a planet needs to sustain life. However, finding both of them somewhere else besides Earth is a huge challenge. One of the reasons why this doesn’t happen are solar storms, which stripe the water vapors off from the atmosphere, and make planets uninhabitable.
Planets with volatile atmosphere are perfect for life
Researchers wanted to find out how an atmosphere suitable for life, namely one made up of water vapor, can resist in harsh space conditions. Therefore, they ran several simulations of the effect solar storms might have on such atmospheres, and discovered how it could evaporate so quickly that life would not have time to form there.
Ocean planets are the perfect environments for life. They have vast surfaces occupied by seas and oceans, and have atmospheres made up of many volatile compounds. This is precisely the type of environment where life can thrive.
Solar storms threaten to wipe entire oceans off the surface of these planets
This is why researchers decided to explore the effects of space weather on such worlds, and the prospect is not so optimistic. Not all Earth-like planets are in danger, but there is a series of red dwarf stars which have some water worlds in their habitable zones. This provides an optimal temperature for life but, at the same time, they are a little too close to the star and to its fiery emissions.
Therefore, over a period of several billions of years, solar storms might lead to the disappearance of these oceans. Although it sounds like a long time, this timeframe is only a small part in the evolution of life. This means solar storms act quite rapidly, and have the potential to wipe out any kind of life-friendly environment.
Moreover, red dwarf stars are some of the most widespread in the universe. This means that this conclusion might apply to most of the ocean worlds, offering a grim prospect for life outside Earth. All the other details on the study have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.
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