Sub-Neptunes are planets that are smaller than Neptune but larger than Earth. They are typically between 1.7 and 3.5 times the diameter of Earth. A new NASA study says that astronomers can detect oceans on some of these worlds by analyzing the chemistry of their atmospheres. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.
Our planet Earth is the only world in our solar system with liquid water on its surface. In this solar system, Earth’s oceans are unique. But scientists think there are many more ocean worlds elsewhere in our Milky Way galaxy. In late October 2021, NASA released a new study suggesting that scientists can find hidden alien oceans on distant exoplanets via the use of chemistry. The study showed that, on worlds that have oceans, the chemical makeup of the atmosphere is distinctly different, as compared to worlds lacking oceans on their surfaces.
The new peer-reviewed research paper was published in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters on October 28. It’s also availble as a free preprint on arXiv.
Using chemistry to find hidden alien oceans
The new study proposes that astronomers could detect oceans on exoplanets by analyzing the chemistry of their atmospheres. Generally, this could apply to Earth-sized worlds, ...