A planet with a large mass will also have a large gravitational pull. Image Credit: NASA
On planets more massive than the Earth, launching things in to space will be a lot more challenging.
So far, the hunt for extraterrestrial life on extrasolar worlds has focused primarily on seeking out Earth-sized terrestrial planets located within their parent star's habitable zone.
But what of very large planets - the so-called 'Super Earths' - that also happen to lie within this zone ?
Such massive planets could in theory also support life, especially if evolution had equipped the inhabitants with the ability to withstand the extreme gravitational pull of such a world.
When it comes to spaceflight however, such a civilization may be at a distinct disadvantage. In extreme cases, it may require up to ten times as much thrust to place something in to orbit.
To carry enough fuel to launch the equivalent of an Apollo Moon mission, for instance, a rocket would need to have a mass of up to 440,000 tons - that's the same as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
"On more-massive planets, spaceflight would be exponentially more expensive," said study author Michael Hippke of the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany.
"Such civilizations would not have satellite TV, a moon mission or a Hubble Space Telescope."
It is easy to imagine how, in such a scenario, a civilization may never even make it in to space at all.
Source: Space.com | Comments (17)