Life may exist on planets that have been hidden from view, according to a study published Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal, in which a team from the University of Cambridge identifies a new class of habitable exoplanets which they have dubbed ‘Hycean’.
Its name is due to the union of two words in English, hydrogen (‘hydrogen’) and ocean (‘ocean’). According to the study, the ‘Hyceans’ are much more numerous than Earth-like planets and they hope to find biosignals of life in two or three years.
These planets can be up to 2.6 times larger than Earth and its atmospheric temperature reaches 200 ° C, but its oceanic conditions could be similar to those that favor microbial life in Earth’s oceans.
“The Hycean planets open up a whole new avenue in our search for life elsewhere,” he said in a release the study’s lead author, Nikku Madhusudhan, from the University of Cambridge Institute of Astronomy.
On the hunt for new biosignals
The team of researchers has also identified a considerable sample of possible ‘Hycean’ planets: the candidates will be studied in detail with the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch later this year.
They all orbit red dwarf stars that are at a distance of between 35 and 150 light years from Earth.