Sunday, February 7, 2016

Krypton Discovered?

Science News reports the discovery of a second mega earth. This is an apparently rocky planet many times more massive than our own. Could this then be a Krypton-type planet with greater gravity where if two-legged folk evolved, and they could somehow get to earth, they could jump further than mere earth people and travel faster than a speeding bullet?

Sixteen times as heavy as earth, massive BD+20594b should be a gas giant like Neptune or Uranus. But instead it's 100% rock. The planet orbits its star in 42 days. A little online research indicates the star itself is very slightly smaller and cooler than the sun and also about one billion years younger. This makes it a yellow star as is our sun, i.e., not red.

Judging from the planet's orbital period, it is even closer to its sun than is Mercury to ours. This probably means it's too hot for life as we know it. It also seems too massive for plate tectonics to exist. Scientists suggest that plate tectonics is key to the circulation of carbon which is the basis for life on earth. Without moving continents and circulation between core, mantle and crust, everything remains locked in place.

Now, if the planet might be tidally locked to its star – one side always facing toward and the other away – there might be a transitional zone between -- in perpetual twilight -- where the temperature might be more conducive to life. And in twilight, at sunset, that sun might appear red. Tidal forces might also create enough internal tension to stimulate circulation within the rocky layers. So, perhaps the possibility of finding Superman's home planet cannot be completely discounted.

What is clear is that recent discoveries of exoplanets make a strong case for the existence of a wide range of planet types including ones that might support life. We also should not limit our consideration to forms of life based on carbon or water such as ours.  Might someone be sailing methane seas on Titan?  Is anyone out there?

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