'Habitable Zone' for alien planets redefined
"This will have a significant impact on the number of exoplanets that are within habitable zone," said research team leader Ravi Kumar Kopparapu of Penn State University.
One of the most important characteristics of an alien planet is whether or not it falls into what's called the habitable zone - a Goldilocks-like range of not-too-close, not-too-far distances from the parent star that might allow the planet to host life.
The habitable zone defines the region where a planet might be able to retain liquid water on its surface. Any closer to the star and water would vaporise away; any farther, and it would freeze to ice, Space.com reported.
But water in its liquid state is what scientists are after, since that is thought to be a prerequisite for life.
The new definition of the habitable zone is based on updated atmospheric databases called HITRAN (high-resolution transmission molecular absorption) and HITEMP (high-temperature spectroscopic absorption parameters), which give the absorption parameters of water and carbon dioxide - two properties that strongly influence the atmospheres of exoplanets, determining whether those planets could host liquid water.
The scientists cautioned that the habitable zone definition still does not take into account feedback effects from clouds, which will also affect a planet's habitability.
The previous habitable zone definitions were derived about 20 years ago
Be the first to comment.