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NASA: Planets On Their Sides May Be More Likely To Host Life

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Astronomers say a planet that lies on its side may be more likely to host life. (Caltech/Getty Images)

Astronomers say a planet that lies on its side may be more likely to host life. (Caltech/Getty Images)

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TAMPA (CBS Tampa) – There may be a way tell if a planet can sustain life…by studying how it rotates on its axis.

To be clear, we’re not talking about wobble that you would notice in a few years, or even a human lifetime. We’re talking about millions of years.

Over the eons, a planet may be pulled in different directions by its star, a companion star, if there is one, and gas giants that may exist in its solar system.

NASA engineers say as the tilt of a planet shifts, it may make it more conducive to the development of life.

That’s because the orientation of its poles can warm its surface to a habitable temperature, even if the planet itself is orbiting in a spot otherwise considered too cold.

“Planets like these are far enough from their stars that it would be easy to write them off as frozen, and poor targets for exploration, but in fact, they might be well-suited to supporting life,” said Shawn Domagal-Goldman, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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