An experiment by a team of astrophysicists proved that life could survive and exist in planets with high concentrations of hydrogen in the atmosphere. They believe their study can be used in the search of alien life in other planets.

The new study was led by astrophysicist Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Planet's With 100% Hydrogen Atmospheres

exoplanet
NASA

Planets with mostly hydrogen atmospheres are often regarded as uninhabitable due to their toxic environment. Earth's atmosphere, for instance, mainly consists of nitrogen. Hydrogen, on the other hand, only makes up less than one part per million of the atmosphere. The composition of the planet's atmosphere is one of the main reasons why Earth is habitable.

However, in a recent study, a team of astrophysicists was able to prove that life can still flourish in planets with atmospheres composed of hydrogen. They came up with this conclusion after conducting an experiment with yeast and Escherichia coli, or E. coli.

Testing The Possibility Of Life

exoplanet
An illustration of what Kepler-1649c could look like from its surface. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/Daniel Rutter

The subjects were exposed to an environment with a 100 percent hydrogen atmosphere. Despite these conditions, the astrophysicists discovered that the microbes were able to survive.

According to Seager, the study she carried out with her team proves the possibility of finding traces of alien life in worlds that were previously labelled as inhospitable. Since most of the exoplanets discovered showed high readings of hydrogen in their atmospheres, scientists will have a wider opportunity of finding alien life.

Finding Alien Life In Other Planets

Aside from exoplanets, scientists could also revisit planets within the Solar System such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The atmospheres of these planets are mainly composed of hydrogen and helium.

"I want to push astronomers to think more broadly about what kind of planets might be habitable," Seager said, according to Space.com. "Biologists, if they ever thought of hydrogen-rich atmospheres, would think it's fine for life to survive because hydrogen is not known to be toxic to life. [Most astronomers] are not aware that life can survive in hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, so our work was to give a clear and concise experimental evidence that it is so."