Image: University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge scientists are stoked about the discovery of a new class of watery planets they are referring to as "Hycean" worlds. These exoplanets are on average slightly smaller than Neptune and up to 2.6 times larger than our planet. Conditions on these worlds are said to be conducive to microbial life and some may even support larger organism. Although temperatures and atmospheric pressures on Hycean worlds are a bit too extreme for our comfort, the presence of liquid water makes them ideal candidates to support a rich underwater ecosystem.
It's exciting that habitable conditions could exist on planets so different from Earth. - Dr. Anjali Piette
Exoplanets were first discovered almost thirty years ago, when astronomers noticed a periodic dimming and wobbling of stars under observation, a condition that led to the discovery of enormous rocky planets orbiting their parent star. With the new addition of giant water worlds, we are getting closer to discovering the ever-elusive, definitive biosignature indicating that we are not alone in the universe.
Essentially, when we’ve been looking for these various molecular signatures, we have been focusing on planets similar to Earth, which is a reasonable place to start. But we think Hycean planets offer a better chance of finding several trace biosignatures. - Dr. Nikku Madhusudh
A new class of exoplanet very different to our own, but which could support life, has been identified by astronomers, which could greatly accelerate the search