Astronomers have found a fascinating new planet orbiting a dying star — but rewind a few million years, and it could’ve sustained life at one time.
Scientists have determined the distant planet is apparently very rich in limestone, which is produced (at least on Earth) by living processes. Astronomer Carl Melis said via Space that the planet appears to have “high carbon content,” which could indicate it once harbored life. It’s not a guarantee, but it means the limestone could’ve been at least partially formed by life on the planet. On Earth, limestone has ties to marine organisms, so they believe this could be an indication that there might’ve been marine life on this planet. When sea creatures with shells die, their shells sink down and eventually form limestone. Hence, the potential for life.
So, how’d they figure out the planet has a limestone crust? Because it’s orbiting a dying star that is slowly destroying the planet, and once the top layer of the planet was destroyed, they noticed the limestone underneath. They believe a large percentage of the planet could’ve been made of limestone, which ups the odds even more that it may have once harbored life.
It’s nothing definitive, but still fascinating. Give us some time, and we’ll find something out there.