Is it worth looking for the planet Arrakis in space?

Scientists have analyzed the climate of the planet Arrakis from Frank Herbert’s fantasy novel Dune. They decided to check how its climate would change if it were covered by the ocean. This research is important for understanding whether it is worth looking for similar worlds in reality.

The planet Arrakis in the movie Dune. Source: BFA / Warner Bros.

Climate of the planet Arrakis

The release of the second part of Denis Villeneuve’s film Dune has stirred worldwide interest in the fictional desert planet Arrakis. Scientists did not stand aside either. They had previously modeled the climate for a similar world. This time they decided to see how its climate would change if it had an ocean.

Even in the most original series of novels, it is explicitly stated that Arrakis was not always a desert. Once, 91 percent of its surface was covered by the ocean. But then some ancient catastrophe deprived the planet of almost all water.

In a new study, scientists modeled an Earth-like desert planet and found that if it were covered by a solid ocean. They found that in this case, the average temperature on the planet would decrease by 4°. This will happen mainly through the formation of snow and some types of clouds that reflect the radiation of the star well.

In addition, the appearance of oceans will cause the planet to cool due to the release of halogens. These gases cause ozone depletion. Although it protects the planet from ultraviolet radiation, it also causes a strong greenhouse effect.

Extreme temperatures

In general, the presence of large oceans on the planet leads not only to the fact that there is more moisture in the soil and the existence of plants is facilitated. Water vapor accumulates in the atmosphere. This is accompanied by climate mitigation. Very high and very low temperatures disappear. 

If the air can warm up to 70 °C over a solid desert, then over the ocean it can only warm up to 40 °C. In general, the climate will become “smoother” by better mixing the atmosphere. However, the downside of this will be the appearance of devastating hurricanes.

Is it worth looking for desert planets in space

In fact, all the research carried out is of great importance for the study of the real universe. After all, they can tell scientists which planets are worth looking for. And the answer to this question is not as clear as it seems.

On the one hand, there is everything as mentioned above, and planets with oceans look more attractive. On the other hand, in their case, the real zone of suitability for life turns out to be very narrow. Because the described mechanism works only in a small temperature range.

If the temperature rises slightly, water vapor begins to accumulate in the atmosphere, which leads to a significant greenhouse effect and the transformation of the planet into an analogue of Venus. On the other hand, the accumulation of ice can quickly turn the planet into a snowball.

That is why scientists perceive the data quite positively, according to which desert planets are quite common in space. It is possible that this will increase the chances of finding life beyond Earth.

According to

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time