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Can snowball planets support life?

11 Aug 2019, 11:52 UTC
Can snowball planets support life?
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Artist’s concept of a snowball planet, with its surface completely or almost completely covered in ice. Image via NASA/AGU/GeoSpace.
When it comes to searching for life outside the solar system – at least life as we know it – the focus tends to be on exoplanets that are neither too hot or too cold. Rocky planets in their star’s habitable zone have the best chance of having water on their surfaces. Until now, it’s been thought that similar worlds covered in ice would likely be too cold for life. But now new research suggests that might not always be the case, and that some of those planets could have habitable land areas.
The new peer-reviewed findings were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research Planets on July 18, 2019.
The study focuses on snowball planets – rocky planets like Earth with their oceans frozen – that scientists had thought were probably too cold for life. Such worlds would have no liquid water on their surfaces, just ice, and little to no land areas.
But the new research finds that the situation might not always be so dire after all, as Adiv Paradise, an astronomer and physicist at the University of ...

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