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New Model Suggests Possibility of Microbial Life on Other Planets

Sep 11, 2012 09:08 AM EDT
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As NASA's Curiosity rover discovers Mars to determine whether the Red planet could support microbial life, a new scientific model suggests that there could be more habitable planets in the universe.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen, UK, have developed a model to study the habitable ambience in other planets.

Water forms the basis of life; experts pointed out that some of the planets could be holding liquid water below the ground. Earlier studies have suggested that a place which holds water on its surface could possibly support microbial life.

While planets that are close by the sun will lose its surface water due to evaporation, surface water on planets that are far away from the sun will get frozen as ice. Hence, planets that are in Goldilocks zone - a zone that maintains a right distance from the effect of the solar energy could have liquid water on the planet's surface, which would mean that it could support life, reported BBC.

"It's the idea of a range of distances from a star within which the surface of an Earth-like planet is not too hot or too cold for water to be liquid," Sean McMahon from the University of Aberdeen's School of Geosciences told BBC.

"So traditionally people have said that if a planet is in this Goldilocks zone - not too hot and not too cold - then it can have liquid water on its surface and be a habitable plane," he said.

The new study points out that heat can be generated from the planets' interiors too. According to the researchers, temperatures below the crust increases which helps water to exist in its liquid form. This suggests that the planets which may be too hot or too cold to hold water on its surface may have water below the ground that could support micro-organisms. It could mean that more planets could be inhabitable.

The new scientific model developed can show how the 'Goldilocks zones' can be calculated to determine water below the surface and the presence of life, McMahon said in a statement from the university.

The research work was presented at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen last week.    

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