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Could alien life thrive on brown dwarf stars?


Posted on Sunday, 4 December, 2016 | Comment icon 10 comments

Could brown dwarfs be a good place to look for alien life ? Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Extrasolar planets may not be the only place where it is possible to find signs of extraterrestrial life.
Larger than a planet but of insufficient mass to sustain nuclear fusion, brown dwarf stars don't immediately stand out as particularly promising places to look for alien life.

In the upper atmospheres of these substellar objects however scientists believe there could exist temperatures which may be closer to that of the average living room than to the surface of the Sun.

Back in 1976, Carl Sagan envisaged the idea of a whole ecosystem thriving in the atmosphere of Jupiter. 'Sky plankton' fueled by sunlight, he suggested, could live in the clouds while larger organisms called 'floaters' could stay aloft like balloons without ever needing a solid surface.

Now planetary scientist Jack Yates and his team at the University of Edinburgh have applied Sagan's ideas to brown dwarf stars where the conditions could actually be perfect for such an ecosystem.

The nearest known brown dwarf star, which lies seven light years away, even has water clouds in its atmosphere - so could there really be alien creatures living there ?

While at the moment the idea remains unprovable, in the near future we may actually be able to learn a lot more about brown dwarf stars thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope.

Once it launches, it will be possible to view the weather and atmospheric composition of nearby brown dwarfs and determine from that just how habitable these failed stars may actually be.

"It really opens up the field in terms of the number of objects that we might then think, well, these are habitable regions," said astrobiologist Duncan Forgan.

Source: Science Magazine | Comments (10)

Tags: Brown Dwarf, Life


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by XenoFish on 4 December, 2016, 19:33
That's interesting. But if life does exist around a brown dwarf what kind of life would it be. Plant like? Microbial?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Parsec on 4 December, 2016, 20:12
Around a star? More probably its agent. 
Comment icon #3 Posted by Grand Moff Tarkin on 4 December, 2016, 20:28
Definitely parasitical then. 
Comment icon #4 Posted by XenoFish on 4 December, 2016, 20:29
Let the sarcasm begin.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Parsec on 4 December, 2016, 20:34
Yours is a tough question to answer with today's knowledge (unless you talk nonsense like my previous post).  According to the article the most probable would be microbial, but heavier entities could thrive depending on the power of upwards winds.  But yeah, I'd say we could expect something relatively light, considering they should always stay aloft.  How much light doea a brown dwarf emit in the visible spectrum? It's crazy thinking that although living o  a star, they could live in the darkness! Another thing: the article mentions that in the upper layers temperature and pressure would be s... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Parsec on 4 December, 2016, 20:36
In many instances sure, but I'd say it depends from case to case. Shall we call it symbiotic?
Comment icon #7 Posted by fred_mc on 5 December, 2016, 5:25
The gravitation of a brown dwarf is pretty high. I read somewhere how many g:s it can be but I don't remember. It was anyway much higher than a human can survive. I think the high gravitation would make it difficult for life to develop.
Comment icon #8 Posted by South Alabam on 5 December, 2016, 5:42
I doubt high gravity would matter to microorganisms. Think of the extreme pressure beneath the ocean. 11 tons per square inch at some depths, yet life is on the ocean beds. And life is adaptable. Look at the millions of insect species who have grown different from others as a way of adapting to an environment.
Comment icon #9 Posted by paperdyer on 5 December, 2016, 17:19
If it wasn't for sarcasm, half of these discussions wouldn't have anything on them! Seriously, this makes you wonder if life on this planet may have come from a similar object that crashed on the Earth.
Comment icon #10 Posted by brlesq1 on 8 December, 2016, 10:02
If there is life, I should think they would have managed the gravity issue.


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