Feeds

Brr, feeling cold? Galaxy is home to plenty of WARMER Earth twins

More Sun-like systems could be teeming with life than previously thought

Business security measures using SSL

Boffins believe terrestrial planets orbiting Sun-like stars in the galaxy are probably more hospitable to life than Earth, thanks to their balmy subsurface temperatures.

The plate crust under the Atlantic Ocean

Tectonic plates meet under the Atlantic Ocean

From the stars found by the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) spectrometer at the European South Observatory in Chile, geoboffins and astroboffins selected two solar twins of our Sun - stars roughly the same size, age and overall composition - and measured the amounts of radioactive elements they contained, a key indicator of their world-building abilities.

Elements such as thorium and uranium are essential because they help heat up a planet's interior and power its plate tectonics. It is believed these are needed to keep water - an ingredient for life - on the surface of the world.

Seven of the eight twins studied so far possess more thorium than our Sun, and if the planets orbiting in the habitable zone around those stars inherited this material, they may have warmer interiors. This means tectonic activity will have occurred for longer, giving life more time to arise.

One star, for example, had 2.5 times more thorium than the Sun, and the boffins now expect its habitable planets to be 25 per cent warmer inside than Earth. The findings have also encouraged the scientists to extend the habitable zones around each star, increasing the number of prospectively life-packed Earth-like worlds.

"At this point, all we can say for sure is that there is some natural variation in the amount of radioactive elements inside stars like ours," Ohio State doctoral student Cayman Unterborn said.

"With only nine samples including the Sun, we can't say much about the full extent of that variation throughout the galaxy. But from what we know about planet formation, we do know that the planets around those stars probably exhibit the same variation, which has implications for the possibility of life."

The relationship between plate tectonics and surface water isn't fully understood, but boffins do think that the same forces of heat convection in the mantle that move the Earth's crust regulate the amount of water in the oceans as well.

Microbial life in particular benefits from subsurface heat, with some microbes on Earth living directly off that source for energy instead of relying directly on the Sun.

To confirm its findings, the team wants to do a detailed statistical analysis of noise in the HARPS data to improve the accuracy of their computer model. The boffins will then ask for telescope time to look for more solar twins. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.