A team of astronomers used computer data from two different models to predict whether the planet could sustain life.
Back in 2013, when astronomers discovered a planetary system that included Kepler-62f, little was known about its atmosphere and composition. Now, after studying the distant planet, researchers have concluded that it could well sustain life.
The team of astronomers from the University of Washington were led by Aomawa Shields of UCLA and conducted and studied several scenarios about its atmosphere and the shape of its orbit using computer simulations. Three elements were studied including thickness of atmosphere, carbon dioxide concentration and different variables of orbital path configurations.
“We found there are multiple atmospheric compositions that allow it to be warm enough to have surface liquid water,” stated Shields.
The planet is roughly 1200 light years away from Earth and around 40 percent larger. It makes up the planetary system with five further planets and orbits its star at a distance that could allow a high concentration of carbon dioxide – enough to sustain life.
“But if it doesn’t have a mechanism to generate lots of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere to keep temperatures warm, and all it had was an Earth-like amount of carbon dioxide, certain orbital configurations could allow Kepler-62f’s surface temperatures to temporarily get above freezing during a portion of its year,” Shields said. “And this might help melt ice sheets formed at other times in the planet’s orbit.”
According to Science Daily, a computer model called HNBody was used and together with existing global climate models, the team built up a picture of how the exoplanet would behave – the first time these two models have been combined to study a planet outside of our solar system.
“This will help us understand how likely certain planets are to be habitable over a wide range of factors, for which we don’t yet have data from telescopes,” she said. “And it will allow us to generate a prioritized list of targets to follow up on more closely with the next generation of telescopes that can look for the atmospheric fingerprints of life on another world.”
Whether or not life actually exists in our universe, the astronomy world is getting ever closer to discovering possible forms of life other than our own.
The findings were published in the journal Astrobiology.