Earth is already a statistical anomaly, something that at present shines out as a blip on the norm of space.
Well a new study looking into the atmosphere’s of exoplanets has revealed just how lucky we really are.
The team from Sorbonne Universitiés has found that were Earth to be just the tiniest amount further from the Sun it would be an unrecognisable, inhospitable ball of ice locked into a permanent ice age.
Led by Martin Turbet, the team examined how CO2 would react in planets that were slightly closer or further away from their host stars. What they found was that even a small adjustment further away would cause the CO2 to condense at the poles forming permanent ice caps.
Without any CO2 entering the atmosphere this would drastically alter the greenhouse effect and in turn would fail to warm up the planet’s atmosphere.
What’s worse is the team find that this situation would only get worse if the amount of water ice increased. The CO2 would become trapped under the water ice, permanently, resulting in a planet that would be stuck in a never-ending ice age.
Earth then is in just the right place. It isn’t too far away that its CO2 has been trapped in the ice and yet it’s not too close that the greenhouse effect went into overdrive and the planet became too hot.
Studies like these are vital in helping researchers better analyse exoplanets, some of which have previously been found to fall into what has often been called the ‘Goldilocks Zone’. A window within which planets are capable of forming life-sustaining atmospheres.
So far the number of planets discovered by the Kepler space telescope to a whopping 4,034, 50 of which have been confirmed as being Earth-sized and located within the habitable zone.
Kepler discovers new planets by observing the minuscule drop in brightness that occurs when a planet passes in front of its star.
One of Kepler’s most high-profile discoveries was of the Trappist system, a remarkable collection of seven Earth-like planets all orbiting a single star.
What makes the discovery all the more astonishing is that not only is the system just 40 light years away from Earth, but that three of the planets discovered are within what we would call the ‘habitable zone’.