2/26/2013 @ 12:24AM |1,610 views
White Dwarfs May Hold The Key To Finding Alien Life
At the end of one part of a star’s life, if it’s not massive enough to become a neutron star or black hole – which is the vast majority of stars – it will shed mass and eventually become a very dense type of star known as a white dwarf. White dwarves are no longer capable of the nuclear fusion that sustains our Sun and most other stars. However, its residual thermal energy is enough to sustain heat for billions of years as it slowly dissipates. Even white dwarves that are close in age to that of the universe still retain their heat.
It’s around these slowly dying stars that astronomers now think may show the first signs of life. At least, given the limits of our current technology. That’s the conclusion of researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
“In the quest for extraterrestrial biological signatures, the first stars we study should be white dwarfs,” said theorist Avi Loeb in a CfA press release.
So far, no planets have been found in the “habitable zone” of a white dwarf star – an orbit where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet. However, the researchers believe that a survey of 500 or so dwarf stars could discover such a planet.