Extraterrestrial life could exist in the atmospheres of “failed stars”

Внеземная жизнь может существовать в атмосферах "неудавшихся звезд"

Astronomers from the UK suggest that life can exist in the upper atmosphere cold enough brown dwarfs – “failed” stars, whose mass is not enough to start thermonuclear reactions in their interior, said in an article posted in the electronic library arXiv.org.

“For the origin of life do not have to have an earth-like planet has a solid surface. In 1976 Carl Sagan suggested that in the upper atmosphere of gas giants can exist organisms-“sails” and the organisms”air bags” that feed on energy from the Sun and floating on streams emanating from the deep layers of the planet,” said Jack Yates (Jack Yates) at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland).

Brown dwarfs, the first of which was found in 1995, astronomers call transitional objects between stars and planets. A lot of these stars failed in less than 7% of the mass of the Sun is too small for the occurrence of thermonuclear reactions in their bowels. Therefore, brown dwarfs gradually extinguished and cooled.

In recent years, scientists have discovered several new brown dwarfs, the presence of the weather on them, lead and mineral “clouds” and a number of other properties that have led many astronomers to believe that they are actually very large planets, not stars.

In 2013, as told by Yates, astronomers have discovered a very unusual brown dwarf is very cold “failed star” WISE 0855 in the constellation Hydra. As scientists have found this year, its surface and atmosphere so cold that there are dense clouds of water and other things more typical of planets than for stars. In addition, it was found that the atmosphere of brown dwarfs contains all the “elements of life”, in addition to phosphorus, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen.

This prompted Yates and his colleagues on the idea that such stars can also be centers of life, like “sails” and “bags” by Carl Sagan. They investigated whether it is possible in principle, using the same equations and ideas of great American scientist used to formulate this hypothesis, 40 years ago.

British followers of Sagan was interested in what the maximum and minimum sizes can reach organisms in the atmosphere “failed stars”, not to “fall” into the lower layers of the atmosphere, brown dwarf, or not to be carried out in open space.

As shown by their calculations, even in the absence of streams of air rising up from the deep brown dwarfs in the atmosphere can exist the germs, about 10 times smaller than typical terrestrial bacteria.

If the atmospheres of brown dwarfs will be a strong updrafts of air, similar to the ones on Jupiter and Saturn, then their atmospheres may exist over large creatures like those described by Carl Sagan. Thus, we can assume that life in the atmospheres of “failed stars” can really emerge.

Why is it important? Current estimates of astronomers, in our Galaxy there are about a billion brown dwarfs, much more than any of the planets and potential counterparts of the Earth. Only in the vicinity of the Solar system should have several dozens of such “failed stars”, which will be able to see the telescope “James Webb”, which will be launched in 2018, and other new Observatory. The study of their spectrum, as Yeats concludes, will help us to find traces of life in their atmosphere or make sure that it is not there.