In the universe there are rings on the planets that have a side that always faces their star and a side that is always dark and are called “Terminator Zones”, scientists discovered that they could be habitable.
In a new study, astronomers at the University of California, Irvine describe how extraterrestrial life has the potential to exist on distant exoplanets within a special area called the “termination zone.”
“These planets have a permanently daytime side and a permanently nightside side,” explains Ana Lobo, a postdoctoral researcher at the UCI Department of Physics and Astronomy who has led the new work, which has just been published in The Astrophysical Journal.
Lobo added that these kinds of planets are especially common because they exist around stars that make up about 70 percent of the stars seen in the night sky, so-called M dwarf stars, which are relatively fainter than our sun.
Research explains that the terminator is the dividing line between the day and night sides of the planet. Terminator zones could exist in that “just right” temperature zone between too hot and too cold.
“What you are looking for is a planet with the ideal temperature to have liquid water,” explains Lobo, since, as far as scientists know, liquid water is an essential ingredient for life.
The two sides of the planet
On the dark sides of the terminator planets, perpetual night would cause a plummet in temperatures that could cause water to freeze into ice. The side of the planet always facing its star might be too hot for water to stay out in the open for long.
“This is a planet where the day side can be blisteringly hot, well beyond habitability, and the night side is going to be freezing cold, potentially covered in ice. There could be large glaciers on the night side,” Lobo said.
The scientists modeled the climate of the terminator planets using software commonly used to model our planet's climate, but with some adjustments, such as slowing down planetary rotation.