Water vapor from geothermal energy could be key to finding life-supporting planets outside the solar system (NASA)

A recent study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) suggests that there are 17 exoplanets that could have oceans that support life beneath the surface of frozen ice.

It is also possible that these planets have springs and rivers with hot water rushing beneath the surface.

The research is based on comparing the discovered planets with Jupiter's Europa moon and Saturn's Enceladus moon as a gateway to finding planets under the same conditions, so that the search does not expand.

As they seek to find exoplanets suitable for some kind of life, NASA scientists traditionally focus their research on a region around the star called the "habitable band," where surface temperatures are moderate and therefore water exists in its liquid state, and this range for the solar system includes both Earth and Mars.

However, even distant and cold exoplanets can harbor oceans beneath their frozen surfaces if they are subjected to internal heating or geothermal energy, as is the case for the moons of Europa and Enceladus in the solar system.

These oceans, located beneath the surfaces of planets, if found, may possess the viability of life, given the availability of energy, elements and compounds necessary for biological processes.

On land, different ecosystems thrive near hydrothermal vents (hydrothermal vents) on the ocean floor that have no sunlight at all, chimney-like vents that spew hot mineral water into the ocean floor.

Similarly, this is the first of its kind to study Earth-sized planets with lower density, which contain wide ice sheets rather than denser massifs. Reading the planet's temperatures, it is possible to determine the state of its surface if it is covered with ice.

For the purpose of reading the surface temperature, the researchers rely on studying the brightness of the planet, and to estimate the total geothermal result, the orbit of each planet around its star is studied, thus identifying the heat resulting from the tidal processes, in addition to the heat caused by the expected radioactivity.

Knowing these two factors, the researchers determine the thickness of each planet's ice layers.

Finally, scientists use all the above data to figure out how much steam thermal craters on the planet's surface are produced by a continuous water-telling process, by comparing them to Europa and Enceladus, which have thermal craters on their surfaces, as recent discoveries have shown.

Scientists believe that the steam craters on the surfaces of the discovered planets could be hundreds and thousands of times more than those found in Europa and Enceladus.

The mechanism for seeing this geological activity is only possible when observing the planet as it passes in front of its star, as the vapor emitted dims or blocks a faint part of the star's light, and is evidence of the presence of icy volcanic eruptions on the surface. Moreover, it is also possible to determine the elements and chemical compounds contained in the rising water vapor, since these elements absorb light in distinct and specific colors, so scientists can analyze light and the amount of steam and assess the planet's ability to embrace life.

These fine details can only be seen from vast distances using high-resolution, high-power telescopes, and this research offers a new concept and perspective for reading the surface temperatures of exoplanets and possible geological activities on them, and looking for the possibility of life away from Earth.

Source : Al Jazeera + Websites