News / Science & Technology

Wobbly Planets Could Host Life, says Study

Artist rendering of the exoplanet HD 189733b (NASA)
Artist rendering of the exoplanet HD 189733b (NASA)

Related Articles

NASA Says Human Landing on Mars on Track for 2030s

US space agency likens steps to get to Red Planet to building blocks that put men on the Moon

Saturn May Be Creating a New Moon

Photo sent by spacecraft shows bright protrusion on edge of one of planet's outer rings, which could be gravitational disturbance caused by small moon
A planet’s wobble may greatly enhance its ability to host life, even if the planet is far away from its star, new research says.
 
Wobbling, or axial shifting, means that a planet changes its tilt much in the same way as a top that’s about to stop spinning.
 
Extreme wobbling may be explained by competing gravitational pulls between the planets’ star and another nearby planet.
 
These wobblers could change their orientation within “tens to hundreds of thousands of years – a blink of an eye in geologic terms,” scientists said in a new paper.
 
A wobbling planet that might otherwise be a frozen world could have liquid water -- thought to be necessary to support life -- because the poles would face the planet’s star, allowing the ice to melt, researchers said.
 
"Planets like these are far enough from their stars that it would be easy to write them off as frozen, and poor targets for exploration, but in fact, they might be well-suited to supporting life," said Shawn Domagal-Goldman, an astrobiologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement. "This could expand our idea of what a habitable planet looks like and where habitable planets might be found."
 
Researchers say they may have already spotted planets with “crazy tilt-a-world” wobbling.
 
Around the star Upsilon Andromedae, two enormous planets were found to be inclined at an angle 30 degrees to each other. In our solar system, the orbits of the 8 planets only vary by 7 degrees, scientists said.
 
In addition to the observations of Upsilon Andromedae, scientists ran “thousands of simulations for planets in 17 varieties of simplified planetary systems.” The modeling considered planets with the same mass as Earth that orbited a sun-like star and have gas giants nearby.
 
In the models, researchers adjusted the tilts of the orbits, the leans in the axes of rotations and the ability of light to penetrate the planet’s atmosphere.
 
Some planets are constantly on the move, while others are relatively stable.  Our planet is not much of a wobbler.
 
“Earth has a fairly stable tilt, but it is close enough to the Sun to avoid prolonged snowball events,” said John Armstrong of Weber State University and the lead author of the research paper, at Weber State University. “However, if it was a bit further away it would need a thicker atmosphere (more greenhouse) or a wobbly axis - the later is the new bit we are proposing.”
 
The paper appeared in the April 2014 issue of Astrobiology.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs