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New research by a team of astronomers at the University of Toronto suggests that extraterrestrial life could survive on icy planets which, until now, were thought to be too cold.
The researchers ran thousands of simulations to explore the temperature fluctuations of planets inside habitable zones — the range of distances from a central star where planets with Earth-like liquid water.
“You have these planets that traditionally you might consider not habitable and this suggests that maybe they can be,” said Adiv Paradise, an astronomer and physicist at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, in a statement.
The Toronto scientists found that many Earth-like planets could feature “large unfrozen areas of land” even when they are in a “snowball state” — when large ice-covered oceans cover much of the planet’s surface, as described in the study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.
These unfrozen areas could reach “summer temperatures in excess of 10° Celsius,” according to their model — warm enough for life.
That’s also warm enough to release enough carbon dioxide, further heating the planet and potentially thawing its ice-covered oceans.
READ MORE: Study suggests frozen Earthlike planets could support life [American Geophysical Union]
More on icy moons: Study: There’s Way More Water on the Moon Than We Thought