A former astronaut names the planet he thinks is most likely to have life
Former astronaut Chris Hadfield, with nearly 5,000 known exoplanets to choose from, names Kepler-442b, 1,200 light-years from Earth, as “excellent” for the James Webb Space Telescope:
An excellent planet for @NASAWebb to take a look. https://t.co/AutXPXInJW
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) February 19, 2022
AT Futurism, Victor Tangermann explains that the researchers now have a week to reduce the list of exoplanets from thousands to tens, to avoid wasting time with the space telescope:
In an article published in The Astrophysical Journal in 2015, a team of astrobiologists argued that several exoplanets identified by NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions, including Kepler-442b, were very likely to possess liquid surface water, like Earth.
“We ranked the known planets Kepler and K2 for habitability and found that several had higher values of H [the probability of it being terrestrial] than Earth,” reads the newspaper.
Victor Tangerman“Former Astronaut Suggests Specific Planet to James Webb to Search for Life” at Futurism (February 23, 2022) The document is open access.
Now, even though the James Webb Space Telescope has found signatures of life on Kepler-442b, no one will be able to get there until around 3220 AD unless they beat the speed of light or find working wormholes.
Could planets blocked by tides have zones favorable to life?
That said, some are willing to put a word on the less likely planets, including tidally locked ones, where one side always faces the “sun” star and the other always faces darkness ( our Moon is like this in relation to the Earth):
As early as 1903, EV Heward suggested that between the night side and the day side of a tidally locked planet, “there must be a wide area of pink subdued twilight” [Heward, 1903]. This eternally twilight region could be warm enough to keep water from freezing but cold enough that it doesn’t evaporate, forming a climatic “goldilocks zone” where life could survive.
Such a planet could resemble an eye, with a hot, dry “pupil” on the side facing its host star that is surrounded by a blue-green “iris”, indicating the presence of water and vegetation. There could also be icy eye-like planets whose surfaces are almost completely frozen except for a warm sea of meltwater facing the planet’s host star.
Caroline Hasler“Tidally locked and loaded with questions” at Eos (February 17, 2022)
At least the James Webb Telescope gives us a chance to test the theories.
You can also read: How exoplanets made ET research respectable. Recent years have seen a marked shift from official skepticism to official curiosity, which includes more generous funding for research. Even a leading scientific journal, Nature, now sees false alarms simply as an opportunity to refine research, currently focused on exoplanets.
Interstellar travel: The four best technologies to get there. Astrophysicist Adam Frank examines the technologies we encounter in science fiction and identifies the challenges that hold them back. In a world where technology must confront fundamental physics, what are the chances and obstacles for cryosleep, light veils, wormholes and warp engines?