NASA has announced that it will award the Distinguished Public Service Medal, its highest honor, to astronomer Yervant Terzian, the Tisch Distinguished Professor Emeritus. Professor…
According to a recent study, tens of billions of planets around red dwarfs are likely capable
of containing liquid water, dramatically increasing the potential to find signs of life somewhere other habitable planets than Earth. Red dwarfs are stars that are fainter, cooler and less massive than the sun. These stars, which typically also live longer than Class G stars like the sun, are thought to make up about 80 percent of the stars in the Milky Way, astronomers have said. Study, based on data from the European Space Agency’s HARPS spectrograph in Chile, used a sample of 102 red dwarfs to estimate that 41 percent of the dim stars might be hiding planets in their habitable zone. One of the largest concerns about planets circling red dwarfs is radiation. A red dwarf’s habitable zone is generally closer to it than Mercury is to our sun, so a planet there would receive a strong shock of particles when storms erupted on the red dwarf. However, if the alien planet had a magnetic field, this could provide some protection. So, too, could an ocean of water. Life that evolved beneath an ocean might be shielded from the brunt of the radiation. Another problem with planets tightly bound to their host star is a phenomenon known as tidal locking, in which one side of the world is perpetually turned toward the sun and receiving almost all of the heat. But this isn’t considered as big of a problem now as it had been. For one thing, research over the past few years has indicated that the presence of other planets can ease the grip of the parent star, keeping a planet from being perfectly stagnant. Furthermore, if the planet has an atmosphere, it might also boast wind, which could move the hot atmosphere to the dark side and the cool atmosphere to the sunlit side.