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Are oceans mandatory for life to develop ?

Posted on Monday, 21 July, 2014 | Comment icon 21 comments

Water is considered an important ingredient for life. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Harald Hoyer

A new study has concluded that an exoplanet requires a liquid water ocean in order to sustain life.

While Earth's oceans have long been recognized as a vital ingredient in the development of life on our own planet, scientists have long pondered over whether or not a liquid ocean is a necessity in order to sustain life elsewhere in the universe.

"We know that many planets are completely uninhabitable because they are either too close or too far from their sun," said David Stevens of the University of East Anglia.

"A planet’s habitable zone is based on its distance from the sun and temperatures at which it is possible for the planet to have liquid water."

In a recent study Stevens and his team determined that the presence of an ocean not only provides the correct temperatures and environment for life to develop but can also help to regulate a planet's climate for long term stability as well.

"Oceans have an immense capacity to control climate," said Stevens. "They are beneficial because they cause the surface temperature to respond very slowly to seasonal changes in solar heating. And they help ensure that temperature swings across a planet are kept to tolerable levels."

Source: Discovery News | Comments (21)

Tags: Earth, Extrasolar Planet

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #12 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 22 July, 2014, 13:25
The habitable zone is not based on Earth life's necessities as such. It is based on the properties of water. It is where water can exist in liquid form. Since water has some rather unique properties and is an abundant molecule there is fair reason to speculate that most life will utilise it. Given that you can only base a habitable zone on the properties of known life and not (for obvious reasons) on unknown it is the best we can do at the moment.
Comment icon #13 Posted by questionmark on 22 July, 2014, 13:34
I wonder how an atmosphere ever would be constantly 100% humid, unless it always has also the same temperature... and that would make that planet a curiosity. Yes I can imagine a planet that rotates so fast that day and night have no influence on the temperature or a planet so far away from the its star that its atmospheric temperature comes mostly from geothermal activity... but the type of life that would be quite different from what we know. Still, it is possible.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Rolci on 22 July, 2014, 14:42
Of course it's possible, all you need is a thick atmosphere, like that on Venus, and voila, constant temperatures sorted. A little thermal inertia here and a little transfer of heat by winds there, and you have constant temperatures served on a silver plate, plus you don't even need to be close to your parent star to feel warm and cozy, which is good news if you're worried about cosmic radiation, which, depending on the composition of the atmosphere, shouldn't be much of a problem anyway. Plus, as you mentioned, thermal energy is another viable alternative, which is also mor... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by questionmark on 22 July, 2014, 15:06
A dense atmosphere is not necessarily a , but to be constantly 100% water saturated you need a constant temperature. Besides that, Venus is too hot to have water. But if the Mid-Atlantic ridge smokers is anything to go by we cannot exclude life there either.
Comment icon #16 Posted by DieChecker on 22 July, 2014, 20:00
From the OP Link: [/size] e]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Rolci on 22 July, 2014, 21:22
So there you have it. A Venus (a planet with thick atmosphere) with a 100% water-saturated atmosphere, maybe a bit further away from the Sun than Mars. And the planet is ready to "get a life". Albeit a funny-looking one, compared to ours, life that is adapted to high atmospheric pressures. But who said it had to look like "our" life? Ours is funny enough, a 100 kpa inner pressure? So you pop in space like a balloon? Just watched Event Horizon yesterday, regretted it, kind of graphic, eyes popping out, blood vomited, and the rest, before the guy is pushed back into the ai... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by mfrmboy on 23 July, 2014, 18:02
Space Willy !! Love it ! Better yet FREE SPACE WILLY !!!
Comment icon #19 Posted by questionmark on 23 July, 2014, 18:28
The point I am trying to get across is that life on earth most probably will be a very poor sample of life everywhere. It is not only water but also the type of possible metabolism. Even if we take the metabolic possibilities of this planet (i.e sulfur instead of carbon) we come to very different life than what we would expect. And don't hold your breath to meet Space Willy... I doubt his primordial aim is to meet you.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Rolci on 24 July, 2014, 0:18
For all I know, his primordial aim may as well be to seek out new life and to boldly go where man is killing his own. You know, the entertainment-seeking type. A species destroying its own members and its own environment must be a cosmic attraction, I'm sure we're aired live full time on millions of worlds, but what if Space Willy is of the kind that has to see it for himself to be sure this is not a comedy with actors playing out an obviously absurd play?
Comment icon #21 Posted by aquatus1 on 24 July, 2014, 2:26
Not exactly. It just radically decreases the opportunities for life. Adaptability and flexibility are two of the most powerful evolutionary traits that can develop, but there must be life there for those traits to develop in to begin with. Got to walk before you can run, and a stable atmosphere makes it easier to walk in.

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