Will Neptune-like Worlds Be Future Human Colonies?

NASA Ames, SETI Institute, JPL-Caltech

To create an Earthlike planet, try starting with a world more like Neptune.

A small gas planet that drifts inward from the cold outer reaches of a solar system might transform into a rocky world loaded with water and other riches, researchers report in the January Astrobiology. This process could create habitable worlds in places that might otherwise be dry and sterile.

Came across this interesting article, the full version of which can be found at ScienceNews.org.

Someday, maybe not in the very near future, but someday, humans will think of and make colonization of other planets or planetoids possible. That is not simply the premise of the books I write, but it is also something I am pretty sure will happen.

But I mostly think of the human race flying across the galaxy in search of habitable worlds, of galactic civilizations and sprawling empires–they are so utterly fantastic, aren’t they? Just like the R’armimon Empire in the Lightbound Saga, which is basically an extension of us far ahead in the future.

The reason that I always think of humans traveling across galaxies is because of a preconception that human colonization will likely happen with finding a planet that starts off being similar to Earth. True, that would have to be when we colonize it. But what would such a planet look like now? It could look like a mini Neptune.

In a paper published this month in the journal Astrobiology, UW doctoral student Rodrigo Luger and co-author Rory Barnes, research assistant professor, say the two forces could combine to transform uninhabitable “mini-Neptunes” big planets in outer orbits with solid cores and thick hydrogen atmospheres into closer-in, gas-free, potentially habitable worlds.

Most of the stars in our galaxy are low-mass stars, also called M dwarfs. Smaller and dimmer than the sun, with close-in habitable zones, they make good targets for finding and studying potentially habitable planets. Astronomers expect to find many Earthlike and “super-Earth” planets in the habitable zones of these stars in coming years, so it’s important to know if they might indeed support life.

In these M dwarf systems, the two most important process that would affect the formation of a habitable planet are strong tidal effects and vigorous stellar activity.

“The bottom line is that this process the transformation of a mini-Neptune into an Earthlike world could be a pathway to the formation of habitable worlds around M dwarf stars,” Luger said.

Will they truly be habitable? That remains for future research to learn, Luger said.

“Either way, these evaporated cores are probably lurking out there in the habitable zones of these stars, and many may be discovered in the coming years.”

More here on astrobiology.com

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.

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Posted in industry news, interesting stuffs, science news

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