The exoplanet Kepler-62f may be an oasis of life, but direct observations of its atmosphere are needed.
Good news for hunters for extraterrestrial life! Scientists have found even more evidence that the distant rock world is most likely suitable for life.
Kepler-62f, which was discovered in 2013, is the smallest planet in the “habitable zone” ever found. It is only 40 percent larger than the Earth and is located 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. Kepler-62f was detected by the Kepler space telescope. But little is yet known about the shape of its orbit.
The habitable zone is an area of a nearby star, where water may be in liquid form. It depends on several factors, such as: how much heat a star radiates, the planet's orbit, the composition of the planet's atmosphere. Fortunately for Kepler-62f, scientists have discovered a number of factors that make Kepler-62f livable.
"We found that there are several atmospheric combinations that allow it to be warm enough to have liquid water on the surface," said lead author Aomava Shields, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California. "This makes it a strong candidate for the habitable planet." In order for the planet to remain habitable throughout its orbital path, the researchers believe that it needs to have an atmosphere three to five times thicker than Earth, which should consist of carbon dioxide. Perhaps the same thing happens on Kepler-62f, as it is removed at a sufficient distance from the star, allowing gas to enter the atmosphere from sources such as volcanoes.
Other scenarios for Kepler-62f are also likely. For example, it can have an atmosphere 12 times thicker than the Earth and the amount of carbon dioxide ranging from the Earth's norm to 2500 Earth norms.
"This will help us understand how likely the planet is to be habitable in a wide range of factors for which we do not yet have sufficiently powerful telescopes," added Shields. "This will allow us to form a list of priority goals that will need to be considered for the construction of the next generation of telescopes."
The study was published in the journal Astrobiology.