Instead, extra-terrestrials could also be thriving in the clouds that surround failed stars.
In scientific communities, the conventional notion of a ‘habitable atmosphere’ was always based upon the premise of a planet that had a surface temperature able to sustain liquid water on its surface.
However, Yates claims the recent discovery of some “Earth-like planets” is beginning to challenge this notion by suggesting that the atmosphere around the object is more suited to life than than the surface itself.
For example, Venus’s surface is a toasty 864 degrees Fahrenheit - too high to sustain life - but at the cloud deck, 55km up in the air, atmospheric conditions are different and liquid water is more readily available.
This suggests life is more likely to exist up here than on the planet.
To investigate the potential for E.T. to be found dwelling in the atmosphere, the team looked at a brown dwarf – a celestial object between the size of a planet and a star.
Brown dwarfs are also known as ‘failed stars’ because they aren’t able to sustain the fusion of hydrogen required to be a star.
The team selected brown dwarf WISE 0855-0714, located only 7 light-years away from earth, that seems to have water clouds in its atmosphere. A perfect candidate.
Yates claims there is now a growing body of evidence that shows some organisms are metabolically active in these clouds: “These aerosols can provide charged surfaces, on which molecules necessary for life, could form,” says Yates.
Needless to say, if we are able to reclassify the idea of habitable space to include planetary atmosphere, the galaxy just got a whole lot more accommodating.