Our search for alien life has always been generally founded on the idea that whatever type of habitable atmosphere we discover, the chances are it’ll look vaguely similar to our own.
Well now a simulation by researchers has shown that it could be a lot more complex than that.
As a side-effect of this, one side of the planet is permanently facing the sun and another is permanently in the shadow.
By modelling the air flow within unusual planets such as these the team from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany found that this configuration causes a very unusual distribution of ozone around the planet.
Ozone is a key component of our own atmosphere, helping protect us from the deadly radiation that is emitted from the Sun.
In the examples of TRAPPIST-1d and Proxima b however the team discovered that ozone could be being trapped in the equatorial region of the planets.
The end result is that you have a planet that could indeed be habitable but you’re then also saying that life can only form on certain parts of the planet.
“In principle, an exoplanet with an ozone layer that covers only the equatorial region may still be habitable,“explains lead researcher Ludmila Carone.
“Proxima b and TRAPPIST-1d orbit red dwarfs, reddish stars that emit very little harmful UV light to begin with. On the other hand, these stars can be very temperamental, and prone to violent outbursts of harmful radiation including UV.”
As Carone points out, while it doesn’t rule out the possibility of us finding life on these planets it does make it just that little bit harder.
“We all knew from the beginning that the hunt for alien life will be a challenge,” says Carone. “As it turns out, we are only just scratching the surface of how difficult it really will be.”
Mind-Blowing Facts About NASA’s Historic Voyager Spacecraft
NASA clearly built the Voyager spacecraft hoping that they could reach interstellar space but just in case, they set the bar far lower. Initially Voyager’s mission was simply to make it to Jupiter and Saturn, little did they know that both spacecraft would exceed all their expectations.
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When the Voyager spacecraft arrived at Jupiter in 1979 it started taking pictures, lots of them. Some 33,000 photos laters and scientists had made some incredible discoveries ranging from the erupting volcanoes of the Jupiter’s moon IO to the hurricane-like storms that covered Jupiter’s terrifying surface.
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Arriving at Saturn in 1981, both Voyager spacecraft altered our understanding of this ringed giant. Not only did we first discover that Europa had a vast subsurface ocean but it allowed us to actually measure the wind speed on Saturn revealing a gas giant that suffered from a permanent 1,100mph gale at its equator.
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Incredibly, Voyager 2 is still the only spacecraft to have visited both the planets Neptune and Uranus. When it arrived at Uranus in 1986 it made some incredible discoveries including 11 previously undiscovered moons around Uranus. When it arrived at Neptune in 1989 the records continued to be set as it discovered the planet’s ‘Great Dark Spot’. Later that year Voyager 2 would turn its cameras off, they will never be switched on again.
On February 14 1990 Voyager 1 would take one last look back at our solar system and capture one of the most famous pictures ever taken. ‘Pale Blue Dot’, is a part of the first ever ‘portrait’ of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. From Voyager’s great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size.
At around 5PM EST Voyager 1 passed Pioneer 10 and became the most distant man-made object in space. Travelling at a speed of around 39,000 km/h Voyager 1 was some 6.5 billion miles from the Sun.
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On the 25 August 2012 Voyager 1 becomes the first human-made object to leave the solar system and enter the vast blackness of interstellar space. It is now 11,600,000,000 miles from the Sun. In that same month Voyager 2 officially became NASA’s longest-running mission in history.
40 years later Voyager 1 is now some 13 billion miles away. Despite what feels like an almost unimaginable distance, it is still transmitting back to Earth and will continue to do so well into the 2020s.