In the zone: How scientists search for habitable planets

In the zone: How scientists search for habitable planets

There is only one planet we know of, so far, that is drenched with life. That planet is Earth, and it has all the right conditions for critters to thrive on its surface. Do other planets beyond our solar system, called exoplanets, also host life forms? Astronomers still don’t know the answer, but they search for potentially habitable planets using a handful of criteria. Ideally, they want to find planets just like Earth, since we know without a doubt that life took root here. The hunt is on for planets about the size of Earth that orbit at just the right distance from their star — in a region termed the habitable zone.

via ScienceDaily: Top Science News:

July 17, 2013 — There is only one planet we know of, so far, that is drenched with life. That planet is Earth, as you may have guessed, and it has all the right conditions for critters to thrive on its surface. Do other planets beyond our solar system, called exoplanets, also host life forms?Astronomers still don’t know the answer, but they search for potentially habitable planets using a handful of criteria. Ideally, they want to find planets just like Earth, since we know without a doubt that life took root here. The hunt is on for planets about the size of Earth that orbit at just the right distance from their star — in a region termed the habitable zone.NASA’s Kepler mission is helping scientists in the quest to find these worlds, sometimes called Goldilocks planets after the fairy tale because they orbit where conditions are “just right” for life. Kepler and other telescopes have confirmed a handful so far, all of which are a bit larger than Earth — the Super Earths. The search for Earth’s twin, a habitable-zone planet as small as Earth, is ongoing.An important part of this research is the continuing investigation into exactly where a star’s habitable zone starts and stops.The habitable zone is the belt around a star where temperatures are ideal for liquid water — an essential ingredient for life as we know it — to pool on a planet’s surface. Earth lies within the habitable zone of our star, the sun. Beyond this zone, a planet would probably be too cold and frozen for life (though it’s possible life could be buried underneath a moon’s surface). A planet lying between a star and the habitable zone would likely be too hot and steamy.That perfect Goldilocks planet within the zone wouldn’t necessarily be home to any furry creatures. …

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ScienceDaily: Top Science News

In the zone: How scientists search for habitable planets

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