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Exoplanets Could Have Better Life-Hosting Environments Than Earth: Scientist

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A new study suggests that planets identified beyond our solar system may have more favorable conditions for sustaining life than the earth does.

The study shows that certain exoplanets may contain “favorable ocean circulation patterns” that would be very conducive to producing and sustaining life, according to Fox News.

“This is a surprising conclusion,” lead researcher Dr. Stephanie Olson of the University of Chicago said in a statement.

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“It shows us that conditions on some exoplanets with favorable ocean circulation patterns could be better suited to support life that is more abundant or more active than life on Earth,” she continued.

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Olson described NASA’s hunt for life-sustaining extraterrestrial environments in a Keynote Lecture at the Goldschmidt Geochemistry Congress in Barcelona.

“NASA’s search for life in the Universe is focused on so-called Habitable Zone planets, which are worlds that have the potential for liquid water oceans. But not all oceans are equally hospitable–and some oceans will be better places to live than others due to their global circulation patterns,” she explained.

Olson’s research team simulated the likely environments found on these exoplanets using NASA’s ROCKE-3D software, according to Eurekalert. They modeled several exoplanet environments and were able to determine which of them stood the best chance for sustaining life.

She explained that Earth’s oceanic life is dependent on the upward flow of the currents, which transports nutrients to the upper levels of the ocean where plants and other organisms can feeed on them.

“Life in Earth’s oceans depends on upwelling (upward flow) which returns nutrients from the dark depths of the ocean to the sunlit portions of the ocean where photosynthetic life lives. More upwelling means more nutrient resupply, which means more biological activity. These are the conditions we need to look for on exoplanets,” Olson explained.

Researchers expect oceans “to be important in regulating some of the most compelling remotely detectable signs of life on habitable worlds,” Georgia Institute of Technology assistant professor Chris Reinhard said, according to Fox News.

Reinhard called Olson’s hypothesis, which is that “life is almost certainly more common than “detectable” life,”a “significant and exciting step forward.”

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