Researchers have cataloged a range of planets that inhabit their parent star’s ‘abiogenesis‘ zone. A new study into how the light from a parent star interacts with planets in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone has increased the precision in determining whether or not life can arise on them.
The abiogenesis zone is defined as the zone in which life can spontaneously arise from chemical reactions. This is different than the more general Goldilocks zone, which is defined as a planet’s optimal location in its solar system to allow for liquid water on its surface.
More specifically, this new hypothesis is based on the amount of Ultraviolet (UV) light the parent star emits. The researchers found that hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulphite react under varying levels of UV light to produce chemical reactions that may have led to the creation of RNA, a precursor to DNA and possibly the first carrier of biological information. Hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulphite are thought to form on planets through meteorite impacts.
Below is a visualization of the abiogenesis zone, how it compares to the habitable zone, and which recently discovered exoplanets fit in each:
The Earth appears at the very top right of the graph at the intersection of the abiogenesis and habitable zones. You’ll notice also that exoplanet Kepler 452b sits right next to Earth. This suggests that this particular exoplanet, discovered in 2015 by the Kepler spacecraft, is currently the best candidate for life as we know it.
Kepler 452b is about 1,400 light years away from Earth in the constellation Cygnus, orbiting its parent star Kepler 452. Future spacecraft such as the James Webb Space Telescope will hopefully tell us more about the planet in the coming years!
The study was conducted and originally reported by University of Cambridge.