FP trendApril 8, 2021 1:39:20 PM IST
A new study by Harvard University researchers has proposed that understanding the behavior and size of raindrops is key to identifying potentially habitable planets beyond the solar system. This is because raindrops are remarkably similar in all planetary environments. The study has been published in the Geophysical Research Journal. The Havard researchers are trying to find simpler ways to understand how clouds evolve. The first step towards this is to know whether the cloud droplets evaporate into the atmosphere or not.
Robit Wordsworth, lead author of the paper, said: “If we understand how individual raindrops behave, we can better represent rain in complex climate models.”
Wordsworth and Kaitlyn Loftus, the lead authors of the paper, have recognized a Goldilocks zone for the size of raindrops using the shape of the drop, the rate of evaporation, and the rate of fall. The study uses these three properties to discover that, within a cloud, only a small fraction of the size of raindrops can reach the surface of the planet.
According to POT, Earth is the blueprint for life on other planets. To find life, astronomers look for features similar to those on Earth, such as liquid water. It must be at the correct distance from your sun because if it is too close or too far, the water will freeze or evaporate. The ‘Goldilocks Zone, also known as the habitable zone, is the distance range with the right temperatures for the water to remain liquid.
If the size is too small, the raindrop will evaporate before it even hits the planet. Whereas, if it is too large, the raindrop will be destroyed due to insufficient surface tension, be it water, methane, or something more unique like superheated liquid iron found on an exoplanet called WASP-76b.
According to Loftus, “We can use this behavior to guide us as we model cloud cycles on exoplanets.”
The shape of the raindrops helps determine the rate of fall which varies depending on the thickness of the surrounding air and gravity. The study further establishes that raindrops have a spherical shape when they are small, however, they become more squashed after growing.