This is a fascinating idea: on the surface of a star much cooler than the Sun, or high in the atmosphere of Venus, the conditions are not that much different than places on Earth where we find living extremophile bacteria. I think the linked article leaves a little to be desired because it doesn’t delve into the topic very carefully so it feels scattershot. But still, big kudos for publicizing the idea.
Originally shared by Ethan Siegel
“Not all brown dwarfs would be suitable; we need them to be as Jupiter-like as possible, which happens only with the smallest of them, where the boundary between a Jupiter-like planet and a failed star is the fuzziest. But given what we know about stellar atmospheres today, if life can thrive in the high atmosphere of gas giants, then the lowest-mass stars, which may yet outnumber stars like our own, could be the home of starborne life”
When we think about life in the Universe, we think about Earth-like conditions: a hospitable atmosphere devoid of poison, flowing water and the right temperatures and pressures for liquid on the surface, and just the right distance from the parent star to make it all happen. But perhaps life exists in abundance under very different conditions: in the atmospheres of stars and gaseous planets. While our own star is far too hot for such a thing, Jupiter, Venus and even the atmospheres of brown dwarfs may be the perfect location for such life to exist. One proposed mission — NASA’s HAVOC, or High-Altitude Venus Operational Concept — might even hold the key to the first discovery of life beyond Earth.