Exoplanets are a common topic here at DVICE, because the idea of other planets out there (some perhaps even similar to Earth), is utterly fascinating. What’s even more exciting is finding Earth-like planets nearby, which we did just last year in the Alpha Centauri B star system, only 4.3 light-years away from us. Scientists ran multiple computer simulations about this star system, determining that it doesn’t contain just one, but a total of up to 11 different planets in the system’s habitable zone. Now, new models are indicating that these planets aren’t just potentially habitable, but could very well host photosynthetic life similar to that here on Earth.
Astronomers at the Universidad Central de Las Villas in Cuba took a closer look at the 2008 computer simulations about Alpha Centauri B, looking for planets that could contain photosynthetic life. They started by indexing the planets with a new metric that looked at potential habitability on a scale from 0 to 1, with 1 being the most like Earth. The scientists determined this by studying the planet’s temperature, gravity, size, and mass. Any planet falling into the 0.8 to 1 rating is considered capable of hosting life similar to that of Earth’s. What's new here is that the scientists’ model also took into account the amount of carbon dioxide present in the planet’s atmosphere, using temperature as a determining factor. Using these standards, they determined that 5 of the 11 planets in Alpha Centauri B rate from 0.86 to 0.93, suggesting that Earth-like life could exist on these planets. By way of comparison, Mars only rates at 0.6.
Obviously, this doesn’t actually prove that there is life in the Alpha Centauri B system, because these models are based more on assumptions than data only rely on theories about life as we know it and how it forms. But, it's still encouraging to imagine that alien life could exist right next door to our own solar system.
Via Universe Today