Science fiction writers and movie-makers have imagined a world completely covered by an ocean, but what if one really existed? Would such a world support life, and what would this life be like?
ESA could make science fiction become science fact when it finds such a world, if the predictions of a group of European astronomers are correct. The ESA mission Eddington, which is now in development, could be the key.
At the recent ESA co-sponsored Towards Other Earths conference, nearly 250 of the world’s leading experts in planet detection discussed the strategy for finding Earth-like worlds. Alain Léger and colleagues of the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, France, described a new class of planets that could be awaiting discovery: waterworlds.
According to Léger and his colleagues, these waterworlds would contain about six times the mass of Earth, in a sphere twice as wide as our planet. They would possess atmospheres and orbit their parent star at roughly the same distance that the Earth is from the Sun. Most excitingly, an ocean of water entirely covers each world and extends over 25 times deeper than the average depth of the oceans on Earth.
Monica Talevi | alfa
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