Finding planets that might be Earth-like or even inhabitable, in general, is something that astronomers and scientists struggle with on a daily basis. It’s difficult to study the small planets that are very far away, and similarly; it’s hard to get a good assessment of where these small planets lie in relation to their stars. Even more challenging is negotiating the perfect distance from these smaller sun-like stars – that hold the building blocks for developing life.
That being said, researchers have suggested that it might actually be possible to see life form on mini-Neptunes. While it would take millions of years to develop, and would require perfect positioning – scientists believe that it’s something that would be entirely attainable. Ultimately, this would be the case because they have hydrogen rich, gas-filled atmospheres that would first, protect them from the violent space weather that these types of planets – that close to the M dwarfs – would experience, while simultaneously laying the building blocks for water, oceans, and planet development.
It would take millions of years after the initial phase of the planet in question to become Earth-like, but the M dwarf would melt down the ice-rich planet – creating oceans and other physical features that would be comparable to Earth. However, scientists have reminded that this would be a near-miracle for that to happen – in perfect harmony. The second step would be the other gases that would be required for life – to ultimately create an oxygen rich atmosphere.
However, Rodrigo Luger, who studied on the project, noted “there are many processes that are negligible on Earth but can affect the habitability of M dwarf planets.” He went on to note “two important ones are strong tidal effects and vigorous stellar activity.” The stellar activity relates to the space weather that was previously mentioned, the second would be the extreme nature of the tides if a planet were that close to an M dwarf. Obviously, the closer a planet is to a star like that – the implications are not just heat related. They’re also tide related, as with Earth – the tidal movements are a balance between the Sun and Moon. That being said though, this simply opens the door for conversation and further research into a new avenue at which other planets that could habitable be found.