Six Gas Giants Found Around A Very Sun-like Star

Astronomers have wondered for some time about the possibility of life on moons of giant planets. We still don't know if it is possible, but if it is, HD34445 looks like a good place to look. NASA Public Domain

All the planets found so far have masses at least as great as Neptune's and are therefore almost certainly gas giants. Whether these planets have moons large enough to hold onto an atmosphere is impossible to tell, but if they do, the moons of the two suitably located planets (known as HB34445b and f by order of discovery) would probably have liquid water at the surface. The orbits appear to be nearly circular, thus avoiding the problem of where planets (or their moons) are alternately boiled and frozen.

Although planetary scientists are excited about the possibility of Europa or Enceladus supporting life, this would have to be in oceans deep beneath their frozen surfaces, and therefore probably limited in its development opportunities.

Unfortunately, as HD34445 ages, it is getting brighter and the habitable zone migrates outward. If life did evolve when the star was more stable, it would have needed to planet-hop outwards to survive.

Most of the planets we find beyond the Solar System circle stars so distant that they can only be seen with large telescopes. However, even a pair of binoculars will reveal HD 34445b east of Betelgeuse if skies are dark enough.

[HT: Bad Astronomy]

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