Oceans play a pivotal role in a planet’s ability to develop and sustain Earth-like life, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of East Anglia said that, so far, computer simulations of habitable climates on other planets have focused on their atmospheres. But oceans play equally vital role in moderating climates on planets and bringing stability to the climate.
Look for oceans on other planets
Scientists at NASA and SETI have repeatedly claimed that alien life does exist, and it may take researchers about two decades to discover them. Our Earth is unlikely to be the only planet to host life. There are more than 100 billion planets in our galaxy, and many of them may have alien life. To find planets that harbor extraterrestrial life, it’s important to identify features that sustain life.
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David Stevens of the University of East Anglia’s School of Mathematics said the number of planets being discovered is rapidly increasing. Findings of this study will help answer whether these planets have the ability to sustain alien life. To conduct this study, researchers created computer simulations of ocean circulation of a hypothetical planet covered with ocean. Then they examined how different planetary rotation rates affect heat transport, factoring in the presence of oceans.
Oceans provide stability to a planet
They found that oceans help control climate on the planets. They help life on a planet by causing the surface temperature to respond extremely slowly to seasonal variations in solar heating. As a result, temperature swings on the planet remain at tolerable levels. Mars lies in the habitable zone of the Sun. But it doesn’t have oceans, so air temperatures usually swing over a range of 1000 degrees Celsius. Oceans provide stability to the planet’s climate.
NASA perhaps realizes the importance of oceans in finding alien life. The space agency has set its sight on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Europa is icy, and slightly smaller than our planet’s moon. NASA says Europa likely has an “ocean of water in contact with a rocky seafloor. If scientists prove the existence of the ocean, Europa would be a promising place to explore extraterrestrial life.