"The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean... Recently, we've managed to wade a little way out, and the water seems inviting." - Carl Sagan
Carbon worlds may be waterless, finds NASA study
Planets rich in carbon, including so-called diamond planets, may lack oceans, according to NASA-funded theoretical research. Our sun is a carbon-poor star, and as result, our planet Earth is made up largely of silicates, not carbon. Stars with much more carbon than the sun, on the other hand, are predicted to make planets chock full of carbon, and perhaps even layers of diamond.
By modeling the ingredients in these carbon-based planetary systems, the scientists determined they lack icy water reservoirs thought to supply planets with oceans.
The building blocks that went into making our oceans are the icy asteroids and comets. If we keep track of these building blocks, we find that planets around carbon-rich stars come up dry. The team says that the extra carbon in developing star systems would snag the oxygen, preventing it from forming water.
"It’s ironic that if carbon, the main element of life, becomes too abundant, it will steal away the oxygen that would have made water, the solvent essential to life as we know it," said Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., a collaborator on the research.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech