Astronomers Say Kepler-62f Might be Able to Sustain Life

Posted on May 27, 2016

Astronomers say Kepler-62f might be able to sustain life. Researchers from UCLA and the University of Washington combined climate and orbit models in studying the planet. Kepler-62f is located 1,200 light-years from Earth. It is about 40% larger than Earth.

Aomawa Shields is the lead author of the study and a National Science Foundation astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow in UCLA’s department of physics and astronomy. Shields says in a statement, "We found there are multiple atmospheric compositions that allow it to be warm enough to have surface liquid water. This makes it a strong candidate for a habitable planet."

Kepler-62f is much farther away from its star than Earth is from the sun. Because of this it would need significantly more carbon dioxide to be warm enough to maintain liquid water on its surface without the water freezing. Computer simulations found various concentrations of carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere ranging from he same amount as is in the Earth's atmosphere up to 2,500 times that level.

Shields says that for Kepler-62f to be consistently habitable it would need an atmosphere that is three to five times thicker than Earth's and composed entirely of carbon dioxide. She says this means it would need to have 2,500 times more carbon dioxide in its atmosphere. The gas could then build up in the planet's atmosphere to keep the planet warm.

Sields says, "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. And this might help melt ice sheets formed at other times in the planet’s orbit."

A research paper on the findings was published here in the journal Astrobiology.

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