Starless planets may present perfect reasons for their moons to possess water, at least temporarily.
By Jonathan Klotz | has been published 5 minutes ago
In what sounds like an oxymoron, scientists have developed a new theory that starless planets shrouded in total darkness may represent the perfect conditions for water to exist. A research paper published by International Journal of Astrobiology And authored by astrophysicist Giulia Roccetti, the case, supported by computer simulations, presents the case that rogue planets orbiting the Moon retain their heat for such a long time, measured in billions of years, as to create a habitable environment. The idea of a planet drifting through space, outside the gravitational pull of a star, might be the best case for supporting life is the complete opposite of what everyone expected from decades of searching the stars for new homes.
Free-floating planets, either born that way from dust clouds or ejected from their home solar system for whatever reason, can be much larger than stars. To date, astronomers have confirmed the existence of 100 exoplanets, and while the planets themselves may not be habitable, they also have several moons. Rocketti’s research points to the moons of so-called rogue planets as the key to finding water.
These moons will not have perfectly circular orbits, meaning that gravitational pull creates friction and generates heat. If this process creates a heat-trapping atmosphere, water can remain liquid on the surface. Water can be created from the interaction of carbon dioxide and hydrogen in the atmosphere rubbing against particles in space, which is how theoretical water arrived on Earth.
The biggest problem with the theory is that the conditions for water formation are not constant. Over time, the Moon’s orbit will become more circular, and the heat-trapping layer will dissipate, exposing the surface to the cold vacuum of space. Planets without stars may not be locked into their orbits, but their moons, so if conditions deteriorate, the gravitational pull will never stop.
What’s amazing about the mathematical models is the moon’s ability to retain heat for billions of years, even far from the standing rays of a star. Starless planets thrown into the void may not be a permanent home for mankind, but the period of habitable conditions may extend over 50 million years. Given the challenges of getting humans to Mars and then trying to colonize the waterless planet, finding any celestial objects that do would be a significant boost to our understanding of the universe around us.
Astronomers argue that the argument is flawed because life needs solar radiation to grow and thrive, and because of the nature of a starless planet it is not bathed by the Sun as closely as Earth. Rocketti and his team counter that a rogue planet’s moon would have the right amount of water, less than an ocean world, to sustain life. Humans have been exploring the darkness of space to learn more about our universe, and now it’s possible that dark planets may be our ultimate salvation.