Are Signs of Life Hiding Beneath Exoplanets Layers of Ice?
NASA's Kepler telescope is responsible for looking at different exoplanets and in finding habitable bodies in the universe. Earlier this year, experts suggested exoplanet Kepler 62-f to be the next habitable planet. Today, a new study shows that the layers of ice on exoplanets are obscuring the view of astronomers but some believe that underneath the ice, there could be oceans capable of sustaining life.
The frozen oceans turned into icy layers covering the surfaces of Kepler 62-e and 62-f. Because of this, scientists' views of the composition of the exoplanets are obscured. NASA's Kepler telescope was able to identify and observe exoplanets, including Kepler 62-f, which is currently considered as one of the potentially habitable planets in space. Without the ice, the researchers can peek into the innards of the exoplanets by using state-of-the-art telescopes.
According to reports, the oceans in exoplanets are believed to be deeper compared to the seven miles depth of some oceans on Earth. Dr. Lena Noack led the research from the Royal Observatory of Belgium that modeled rocky worlds with very deep oceans. The research suggests that even in bodies with the same mass as Earth, deeper ocean depths can form due to high-pressure. But despite the icy surface and the depth, if the body releases enough heat from its core, water can remain in liquid form under ice. The trapped water might then be able to sustain life forms.
"We find that heat flowing out of the silicate mantle can melt an ice layer from below, depending mainly on the thickness of the ocean-ice shell, the mass of the planet, the surface temperature and the interior parameters," according to the study published by Daily Mail. The said model also applies to planets 10 times bigger than the Earth.
So far, two exoplanets are being investigated with the belief that an ocean is trapped underneath the high-pressure ice layers on their surface. Kepler 62-e and 62-f might have oceans below the surface that could be 1.6 times larger than that of the Earth, according to AOL.
In some similar studies, researchers also think that clouds and haze obstruct the view of the exoplanets. Clouds or haze seem to be on almost every planet we studied," Aishwarya Iyer of California State University said in a statement. You have to be careful to take clouds or haze into account, or else you could underestimate the amount of water in exoplanet's atmosphere by a factor of two," Iyer added.
This calls for patience on the part of researchers to be able to delve deeper into an exoplanets icy, hazy and cloudy surfaces. Until such time when man developed a technology capable of looking beyond the ice, researchers will have to rely on looking at the surface of the exoplanets with the hopes of finding potential signs of oceans beneath and eventually signs of life.