Earth 2.0 – Search is gaining momentum

Scientists have found five-star systems capable of supporting life. These are the best possible targets for Earth 2.0 hunt.

For nearly half a century, the creators of Star Wars envisioned the habitable planet of Tatooine – a desert world revolving around a pair of stars where intelligent life could enjoy the light of a double sunset. But scientists just found stark evidence pointing to five known multi-star systems: Kepler-34, Kepler-35, Kepler-38, Kepler-64 and Kepler-413, all of which could support life. This is the result of a study published in the journal “Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences”.

The newly developed mathematical framework allowed scientists at Washington University and New York University Abu Dhabi to show how these five systems, located 2,764 and 5,933 light-years from Earth, in the Cygnus and Lute towers, have a stable habitat. It is a region of space near stars where liquid water can form and remain on the surface of an Earth-like planet.

One system, the Kepler-64, has at least four stars orbiting each other. While other systems have only two stars, they have been known to orbit at least one giant planet equal to or greater than Neptune.

This proves that the giant planets of binary systems do not exclude habitable worlds.

Life is likely to evolve on planets in their ecosystems, such as Earth. We are now studying whether the habitable zone exists in nine known systems with two or more stars orbiting the giant planets. We are showing for the first time that Kepler-34, Kepler-35, Kepler-64, Kepler-413, and especially Kepler-38, are suitable for the existence of Earth-like worlds with oceans, said Nikolaos Georgakarakos of New York University Abu Dhabi.

Scientists believe that most stars have their own planets, and the discovery of additional objects has accelerated since 1992. As of this writing, 4,375 exoplanets and 5,900 potential exoplanets have been discovered.

Twelve of the exoplanets observed by the Kepler Space Telescope are binary planets, that is, planets orbiting the two components of a double star. They are also called P-type planets, unlike S-type planets, which are also found in binary star systems but orbit only one component of the system.

Binary systems are virtually everywhere in the universe – estimates suggest that they make up between 50 and 75 percent. All star systems. While observations only confirmed the existence of giant exoplanets in binary orbits, there are likely Earth-like planets and moons hidden in the binary system’s habitats.

Unfortunately, gravitational interactions in multi-star systems – especially when giant planets are present – are likely to reduce the chances of life emerging and surviving. For example, these planets may collide with their host stars or be ejected from their orbits. Even Earth-like exoplanets early in life would fall into elliptical orbits, causing severe periodic changes in the intensity and spectrum of radiation.

Professor Ian Dobbs Doxon of New York University Abu Dhabi said: “We have known for some time that binary star systems that do not contain giant planets have the potential to contain habitable worlds.”

The habitable areas around the Five Kepler Systems are 0.4 to 1.5 AU (au, distance from Earth to the sun) and start 0.6 to 2 AU from the center of mass of their double stars. These systems will likely be of great importance in the next decade, when several new exoplanet hunting telescopes are launched.

Our study confirms that even giant planetary binary star systems are hot targets in the search for Earth 2.0. Watch out for Tatooine, here we come! – Nikolaos Georgakarakos summed up.

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