New computer models of more than a thousand possible terrestrial planets shockingly suggest that less than one percent will have the same split between land and ocean as our pale blue dot. That’s according to a new research paper presented this afternoon at the 2022 Europlanet Science Conference (EPSC) here in Granada, Spain.
The research, co-authored by the Swiss-German team consisting of Tilmann Spoon and Dennis Honning, shows how the evolution and cycles of continents and water can shape the evolution of terrestrial exoplanets, EPSC reports. Results from their models suggest that the probability of planets covering roughly 80% of Earth, with about 20% likely being ocean worlds, notes the ESPC. Barely one percent of the computer model results had a distribution similar to land and water.
Geophysicist Tilmann Spoon, executive director of the International Institute for Astronomy in Bern, Switzerland, noted that if you were to look for another planet, you should probably expect one with a brown color palette largely covered in Earth’s mass. in its presentation.
The paper on which the oral presentation was based was submitted to the Journal astrobiology The authors note that these planets would all be considered habitable, but their fauna and flora might be very different.
Here on Earth, rivers, oceans, rivers, and lakes make up 70% of the Earth’s surface.
“The news from this paper is that our planet looks atypical; I was surprised,” Spoon told me here in Granada.
The researchers’ models began with initial conditions that included everything they knew about how our planet’s continents formed and evolved. They found that continental worlds, which contain less than 30 percent of the oceans, are more likely to dominate the galaxy. Cold deserts may occupy the mainland and land-like interiors during the last Ice Age, the EPSC notes. In contrast, ocean worlds with less than 20% land mass are likely to be humid and warm.
And if Spoon has to guess how many Earth-like planets are in our galaxy?
You’ll find one Earth-like planet for every 10,000 rocky planets, Spoon says, which is something on this football field.
How close is the closest true Earth analogue?
About a hundred light-years away, says Spoon.
Does Spoon see intelligent life as capable of evolving in either an oceanic world or an Earth-dominated world?
Likely, those two extreme plans I’m describing will also have plate tectonics, says Spoon.
Plate tectonics is the geophysical theory that the Earth’s crust is made up of large sheets of lithosphere that move independently and float above the Earth’s mantle. Constantly in motion, it is believed to have provided a stable climate here on Earth through carbon recycling.
But although Spohn has modeled the plate tectonics of the planets, he sees the greatest benefits of living on a planet with a more balanced composition of land and ocean. Thus, he admits that the chances of finding intelligent life on such a heavily dominated Earth outside the solar system, may be smaller than on our planet.
However, we too may end up dominating the Earth. Spohn says that because Earth’s continents are constantly growing, within a billion years, our planet may be more dominant on Earth than water.