Discovering exoplanets, that is, planets that are outside of our solar system, is all the rage these days. Almost every week there is a story or two about more of these being discovered, and some, like the Kepler ones, have even been targeted as places that might resemble Earth from afar and could even harbor life. However, astronomers have now gave those that dream of finding life out there somewhere a new reason to hope.
Before this new information was released, scientists already believed that there were likely to be millions of possible planets out there that might be in the right zone around their respective stars to possibly haven given rise to life. However, planets that orbit red dwarf stars were omitted from the results because it was surmised that water could not exist on these planets. Red dwarf stars are small, in astronomical terms, and usually don’t put out very much light. This meant that the possible Goldilocks zone, the term used for the inhabitable area, would be very close to the star, and also very small. This led scientists to believe that the chances of finding life around a red dwarf star would be very low. A recent study from the European Space Agency begged to differ with this approach. They sampled 102 red dwarfs and found that 41% of them had enough of a habitable zone to make it reasonable to think there could be planets there with the possibility of thriving life. As astronomy goes, this simple finding opened up billions of possibilities that were originally left out of the data.
So, the bottom line is that these new findings mean that there are even more stars out there with possibly inhabited planets around them than was previously thought. If there is life on a planet revolving around a red dwarf star, it may be very different than the life we know here on Earth. After all, the proximity of the habitable zone to the star means a much higher level of radiation. To support life, the planet would have to have an excellent atmosphere or life that has somehow adapted to living with this kind of radiation exposure. But bringing half of the red dwarfs in the universe back into the race means that the odds just grew by an exponential rate.