Larger than Earth, with hydrogen-rich oceans and atmospheres: Identify a type of exoplanets that could host life

Earth Life Planets Space

They are much more numerous than those similar to Earth and scientists hope to find biosignals of life in a few years.

Life may exist on planets that have been hidden from view, according to a study published Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal, in which a team from the University of Cambridge identifies a new class of habitable exoplanets that they have dubbed ‘Hycean’.

Exoplanets could host life

Its name is due to the union of two words in English, hydrogen (‘hydrogen’) and ocean (‘ocean’). According to the study, the ‘Hyceans’ are much more numerous than Earth-like planets and they hope to find biosignals of life in two or three years.

These planets can be up to 2.6 times larger than Earth and their atmospheric temperatures reach 200° C, but their oceanic conditions could be similar to those that support microbial life in Earth’s oceans.

“The Hycean planets open up an entirely new avenue in our search for life elsewhere,” lead study author Nikku Madhusudhan, of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement.

Hunting for new biosignals

The research team has also identified a considerable sample of possible ‘Hycean’ planets: the candidates will be studied in detail with the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch later this year.

All of them orbit red dwarf stars that are between 35 and 150 light years from Earth.