Scientists bared that even without a solid surface or a celestial body like the planets we know, clouds of dust in space somewhere in the distant galaxy can still host life.
Photo by Ron Miller
Jack Yates, who led the study and a planetary scientist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom said, "You don’t necessarily need to have a terrestrial planet with a surface."
We are sold to the idea of habitable solid surfaces of exoplanets. After all, it should be like the living conditions we have on earth - life thrives on surfaces below the atmosphere which are the lands and oceans. But what about life floating in an atmosphere itself?
Our very own atmosphere has microorganisms floating in jet streams across continents. Carl Sagan envisioned the same to Jupiter's upper layers penetrable by sunlight. In years soon after, scientists have considered the same in Venus' carbon dioxide surface.
But Jupiter's and Venus' surfaces were not really as closely habitable as Earth's. However in 2011, it was discovered that cold brown dwarfs have surfaces that are just around the room temperature we have on Earth.
Brown dwarf named 2MASSJ22282889-431026
Brown dwarfs are failed stars. They are like a giant planet and like a small star. They are believed to emit mainly infrared and are not big enough to ignite nuclear fusion like stars do.
In March 2013, astronomers discovered WISE 0855-0714, a brown dwarf only 7 light-years away and the fourth closest to our solar system, seems to have water clouds in its atmosphere. Such enormous atmosphere of hydrogen gas makes a volatile conditions to microbes. The right size should keep it from sinking too low and avoid being cooked; or rising too high and avoid being frozen. In such scenario, Earth's microbe will fare well. Studies made on brown dwarfs revealed that essential elements to life are found in its atmosphere such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, though perhaps not phosphorous.
The researchers will publish their results in the upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal