跳到主要內容區

NTHU Groundbreaking Insights into the Possibility of Extraterrestrial Life

2022.06.16
Astronomers have long been searching for signs of life in single star systems, which are similar to our own solar system. In one of the latest developments in this search, a research team that included Professor (何英宏) Daniel Harsono of the Institute of Astronomy at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan and researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark has discovered that the planets in a binary star system are the most likely places to have extraterrestrial life. Their research has recently been published in the top international journal Nature.
 
Prof. Harsono explained that a binary star system, which is composed of two stars orbiting each other, erupts about once every 100 years, whereas a single star system erupts once every 10,000 years. After a star erupts, the carbon, hydrogen, etc. that surrounds it have an opportunity to recombine to form the organic compounds that make up life.
 
Prof. Harsono said that about half of the stars in the Milky Way form binary star systems, appearing like two suns, and if the two stars are close enough to one another to be affected by each other's gravitational pull, they begin to orbit each other, resulting in a planetary environment which is very different from that of a single star system.
 
Since Earth is the only planet known to have life, astronomers looking for extraterrestrial life have tended to focus on single star systems. Scientists used to think that the orbit of planets belonging to a single star system is relatively simple, and unaffected by multiple large celestial bodies, making the temperature and illumination more stable, which is conducive to the survival of life. But this idea has been overturned by the latest findings.
 
Prof. Harsono’s research team used the ALMA telescope located in the desert of northern Chile to observe the young binary star system NGC 1333-IRAS2A, which was formed about 10,000 years ago at a distance of 1,000 light-years from Earth, and used the high-resolution snapshots they obtained to make a computerized simulation of its evolution.
 
The simulation showed that the flow of gas surrounding this young binary star was powerful and chaotic, leading to an eruption that sent massive amounts of material falling towards the star, making the star 10 to 100 times brighter, after which it returned to its normal state. During the eruption, the gas and dust in the planet-forming disk was torn apart and then re-accumulated, changing the planet's structure.
 
They found water, methanol, and other complex organics, as well as carbon-containing molecules with 9 to 12 atoms. They also discovered that the eruption of the binary star system destroyed the water and complex organic matter in the rock, so that the organic molecules were destroyed and rebuilt faster than in a single star system, which is more conducive to the origination of life.
 
Their research was supported by NTHU's Center for Informatics and Computation in Astronomy (CICA) and the Yushan Project of the Ministry of Education. The research team included a professor from the University of Michigan, and Prof. Harsono formulated the theoretical model based on the team’s observations.
 
NASA is currently preparing to use the Webb Space Telescope that was launched late last year to observe complex organic molecules in binary star systems, and Prof. Harsono is in charge of the team that will observe the gas and dust around a young binary star system.
 
When asked if he believes that there is life on other planets, Harsono replied, “Of course there is! In such a vast universe, how could Earth be the only planet with life on it?”
 
A research team including Professor Daniel Harsono(何英宏) of the Institute of Astronomy has discovered that the planets in a binary star system are the most likely places to have extraterrestrial life.

A research team including Professor Daniel Harsono(何英宏) of the Institute of Astronomy has discovered that the planets in a binary star system are the most likely places to have extraterrestrial life.

A research team including Professor Daniel Harsono of the Institute of Astronomy has discovered that the planets in a binary star system are the most likely places to have extraterrestrial life.

A research team including Professor Daniel Harsono of the Institute of Astronomy has discovered that the planets in a binary star system are the most likely places to have extraterrestrial life.

Harsono’s research team used the ALMA telescope located in the desert of northern Chile to observe the young binary star system NGC 1333-IRAS2A.

Harsono’s research team used the ALMA telescope located in the desert of northern Chile to observe the young binary star system NGC 1333-IRAS2A.

Harsono using a simulation to explain the evolution of a binary star system.

Harsono using a simulation to explain the evolution of a binary star system.

If the two stars in a binary star system are close enough to one another to be affected by each other's gravitational pull, they begin to orbit each other, leading to an eruption.

If the two stars in a binary star system are close enough to one another to be affected by each other's gravitational pull, they begin to orbit each other, leading to an eruption.

If the two stars in a binary star system are close enough to one another to be affected by each other's gravitational pull, they begin to orbit each other, leading to an eruption.

If the two stars in a binary star system are close enough to one another to be affected by each other's gravitational pull, they begin to orbit each other, leading to an eruption.

Harsono’s research team used the ALMA telescope to observe the two stars (yellow dots in image) in a binary star system orbiting each other.

Harsono’s research team used the ALMA telescope to observe the two stars (yellow dots in image) in a binary star system orbiting each other.

Harsono’s research team used the ALMA telescope located in the desert of northern Chile to observe the young binary star system NGC 1333-IRAS2A.

Harsono’s research team used the ALMA telescope located in the desert of northern Chile to observe the young binary star system NGC 1333-IRAS2A.

visited: