Our search for alien life has always been generally founded on the idea that whatever type of habitable atmosphere we discover, the chances are it’ll look vaguely similar to our own.
Well now a simulation by researchers has shown that it could be a lot more complex than that.
As a side-effect of this, one side of the planet is permanently facing the sun and another is permanently in the shadow.
By modelling the air flow within unusual planets such as these the team from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany found that this configuration causes a very unusual distribution of ozone around the planet.
Ozone is a key component of our own atmosphere, helping protect us from the deadly radiation that is emitted from the Sun.
In the examples of TRAPPIST-1d and Proxima b however the team discovered that ozone could be being trapped in the equatorial region of the planets.
The end result is that you have a planet that could indeed be habitable but you’re then also saying that life can only form on certain parts of the planet.
“In principle, an exoplanet with an ozone layer that covers only the equatorial region may still be habitable,“explains lead researcher Ludmila Carone.
“Proxima b and TRAPPIST-1d orbit red dwarfs, reddish stars that emit very little harmful UV light to begin with. On the other hand, these stars can be very temperamental, and prone to violent outbursts of harmful radiation including UV.”
As Carone points out, while it doesn’t rule out the possibility of us finding life on these planets it does make it just that little bit harder.
“We all knew from the beginning that the hunt for alien life will be a challenge,” says Carone. “As it turns out, we are only just scratching the surface of how difficult it really will be.”
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