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Pulsars could harbor habitable planets

Theoretically it is possible that there are planets with life around a pulsar, provided they have extremely dense atmospheres.


This is the first time that a team of astronomers has tried to find potentially habitable zones or planets near these types of neutron stars. According to the calculations have been carried out, the habitable zone around a eutron star can be as large as the distance between Earth and the sun and what conditions should a planet located in that area have to be able to harbor life? A necessary condition is that it has the characteristics of a Supertierra whose mass is one to 10 times greater than that of our planet. If it were smaller, it would lose its atmosphere in a few thousand years. In addition, its atmosphere should be at least a million times denser than Earth’s. The conditions on the surface of the planet dependent on the pulsar could resemble those in the depths of the sea.
The astronomers responsible for the research studied the pulsar PSR B1257 + 12, located about 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Virgo. For this they used the Chandra Space Telescope, which is specially designed to observe X-rays, and saw that there are three planets orbiting around the pulsar. Two of them are Superterras with a mass of four to five times higher than Earth and orbit close enough to the pulsar to receive their heat. Patruno explains that according to his calculations, “the temperature on these planets could be adequate for there to be liquid water on its surface.” What we still do not know is whether the atmosphere of the two Supertherras is sufficiently dense. For their next projects, these astronomers from Leiden and Cambridge intend to make more detailed observations of the pulsar and compare it with other pulsars. They also hope that the ALMA telescope, from the European Southern Observatory, will show dust discs around the neutron stars, which are good indicators of the existence of planets. It is estimated that the Milky Way contains about one billion neutron stars, of which about 200,000 are pulsars. So far 3,000 pulsars have been studied and only 5 pulsar planets have been found. PSR B1257 + 12 is one of the most studied and in 1992 the first exoplanets were discovered around this object.


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