Monday, May 26, 2008

Sol may not be "unusual" for supporting life.

Shaun Saunders send in an article from New Scientist Space which pours a bit of water on the theory that our sun is in some way an optimal star for supporting life on its planets.

There's nothing special about the Sun that makes it more likely than other stars to host life, a new study shows. The finding adds weight to the idea that alien life should be common throughout the universe. Some previous studies of the Sun's vital statistics have concluded that it is unusual among stars, for instance, by having a higher mass than average. Such atypical properties might somehow help explain why the Sun seems to be unique, as far as we know, in having an inhabited planet. But the earlier studies only looked at a small number of solar features, such as its mass and iron content. (Scientists have) now analyzed 11 features of the Sun that might affect its ability to have habitable planets. They included its mass, age, rotation speed and orbital distance from the centre of the Milky Way. The Sun did stand out in two ways: it is more massive than 95% of nearby stars and its orbit around the center of our galaxy is more circular than those of 93% of nearby stars. But when all 11 properties were taken on board, the Sun looked very ordinary. (Scientists) conclude that there are probably no special attributes that a star requires to have a habitable planet, other than the obvious one – the planet must be within the star's habitable "goldilocks" zone, orbiting at a distance where the temperature is not too hot for life, nor too cold, but just right.

(Image: SOHO-EIT Consortium/ESA/NASA)

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