Icy planets once thought too cold to support life might have livable land areas above freezing, challenging the typical assumption of what kinds of planets might be habitable, a new study suggests.

Scientists have long thought snowball planets—Earthlike planets with oceans frozen to the equator—were hostile to life because of the extreme cold. But new research in AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets finds some snowball planets might have areas of land near their equators that reach livable temperatures.

“You have these planets that traditionally you might consider not habitable and this suggests that maybe they can be,” said Adiv Paradise, an astronomer and physicist at the University of Toronto and lead author of the new study.

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