When looking for life on other planets, we tend to look at exoplanets, which are planets that are orbiting a star outside of the solar system. But, there is a new theory for a new type of planet called “eyeball planets.”
Eyeball planets are “tidally locked.” Tidally locked planets always show the same side to their star. This leaves the side facing the star scorched, and the side facing away frigid. The theory states that between the two sides is a ‘ring of life’. The ring of life is a strip of land on the planet where there is vegetation and water flowing. The conditions on the eyeball planet are extreme, except for the ring of life, which has the potential to actually support life.
Theoretically, there are two types of eyeball planets: “hot eyeball” planets and “icy eyeball” planets. Hot eyeball planets are closer to their stars, so the side facing the star is really hot, while the side facing away from the star is very cold. Hot eyeball planets are the only planets with the ring of life. Icy eyeball planets are also tidally locked, but are farther away from their star, so heat is in short supply. The side facing away from the star, in this case, is covered in thick ice. The side facing towards the star isn’t desert, but instead, has a huge pond of liquid water, which leaves potential for underwater life. If there was surface life, those organisms would have to depend on the pond of liquid water to survive. However, the surface life could be in danger, because if the pond were to freeze over, it would never melt.
Many people think that habitable planets have to be Earth-like: with moderate temperatures and with land scattered across oceans. However, it’s also a possibility that it’ll look like an eyeball planet, with features such as a ring of life or a huge pond. Despite these findings, both hot eyeball planets and icy eyeball planets are extreme cases. In fact, there could be even more than two types of eyeball planets. There is also a possibility that eyeball planets could look really different from what we now think.
Eyeball planets could change astronomers’ whole perspective on what makes a planet habitable and what a planet that supports life could look like.
[Sources: Nautilus; NASA; Associated Press]