Saturday, 3 December 2016

Alien Life Floating on Dwarf Stars - Science or Science Fiction?

Some brown dwarfs might not look very brown. Image courtesy of R. Hurt/NASA, public domain.

Joel Kontinen

Has the quest for alien life become an obsession for some astronomers?

It seems so. They have even found worlds that might not exist.

Like the late Carl Sagan, they seem to detest the notion that Earth could be unique.

Life flourishes in seemingly impossible conditions on our planet, so why would it not do so on other worlds as well?

This time they have set their hopes on brown dwarf stars. An article in Science says:

There’s an abundant new swath of cosmic real estate that life could call home—and the views would be spectacular. Floating out by themselves in the Milky Way galaxy are perhaps a billion cold brown dwarfs, objects many times as massive as Jupiter but not big enough to ignite as a star. According to a new study, layers of their upper atmospheres sit at temperatures and pressures resembling those on Earth, and could host microbes that surf on thermal updrafts.”

Naturalism and wishful thinking seem to go hand in hand:

The idea expands the concept of a habitable zone to include a vast population of worlds that had previously gone unconsidered. ‘You don’t necessarily need to have a terrestrial planet with a surface,’ says Jack Yates, a planetary scientist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, who led the study.”

The next step is a digression into science fiction: Inspired by Carl Sagan’s idea of an ecosystem in Jupiter’s atmosphere, they envision microbes floating around in hydrogen gas.

The article mentions that the idea is speculative. and that certainly is no understatement. No form of life can float around anywhere if it does not come into existence first.

And life, as we know, only comes from life.


Sokol, Joshua, 2016 Alien life could thrive in the clouds of failed stars. Science (2 December).