Could life exist around a hypergiant star?

Is it possible for life to exist around massive stars?

A hypergiant star with a dust disc and next to our Solar System for size comparison

A hypergiant star surrounded by a dust disc and next to our Solar System for size comparison. Image Credit: NASA

Asked by Bella James

It’s possible, just not very likely. Alien life is a topic that attracts a huge amount of attention despite the fact that we still haven’t found any evidence of it. This has led to lots of speculation as to what alien life is like, what it may look like and how different it may be from life on Earth. Our initial searches for life usually follow the lines of looking for the conditions that would be suitable for life as we know it to survive. Liquid water, sources of energy and particular chemistry are all things we look for.

There is nothing that says that these conditions could not be present around all stars. Obviously planets would need to be closer if its parent star is cooler and further away if it’s hotter, but we know planets sit at a range of orbits so this is possible. One problem with planets around hypergiant stars is that, quite often, these stars can have very strong solar winds, as well as a tendency to lose a lot of material into space around them. This has the potential to make the surface of any planet very turbulent as they are bombarded with stellar material. This, in turn, could stop the formation of life on the planet’s surface, but as a counterpoint we know life forms on Earth have adapted to extreme environments. We still won’t know for sure until we detect evidence for life, or life itself around one of these exotic stars.

Answered by Josh Barker from the National Space Centre

Got a question for us? Send it into [email protected] and you could see it featured in All About Space – available every month for just £3.99. Alternatively you can subscribe here for a fraction of the price!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,