Super-Earth Planets Could Host Alien Life After All


Large rocky planets, or Super-Earths, could host alien life since they’re likely to develop powerful magnetic fields, according to a new study.

Super-Earths, which are up to 10 times more massive than our planet, may be able to harbor complex life, says the National Ignition Facility (NIF). An NIF study found that Super-Earths could have powerful magnetic fields important for the development of an atmosphere, a mild climate and liquid water.

Magnetic fields protect planets from cosmic ray bombardment and solar wind. Powerful convection currents in our planet’s liquid-iron outer core generates Earth’s magnetic field. As the Earth spins, it generates a magneto-dynamo that produces the magnetosphere and is the source of most geological activity.

“Active plate tectonics and a magnetosphere are both considered requirements for a habitable exoplanet,” Rick Kraus, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who was involved in the study, said in a statement Monday. “A stable surface environment free of ionizing radiation is one of the most important qualities of a planet that are considered a requirement for habitability.”

Kraus’ team created liquid iron similar to Earth’s core using lasers. This indicates that Super-Earths could have a similar core to our planet, meaning they could develop powerful magnetic fields similar to those that protect our planet from radiation threats. Without Earth’s magnetic field, life likely would not have evolved beyond single cells.

“Finding habitable exoplanets is one of the top three goals of the planetary science and astronomy communities,” Kraus said. “With these discoveries come many questions: What do these planets look like? Is our solar system unique? Is Earth unique? Or more specifically, is Earth uniquely habitable?”

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