Finding a new Earth: Holy grail of astronomy

Apr 27, 2012
Finding a new Earth: Holy grail of astronomy
Artist's impression of an exoplanet. Credit: Lynette R. Cook.

(Phys.org) -- Determining the habitability of rocky, Earth-like planets in the universe will be crucial for us as a species, according to scientists from The Australian National University.

But the good news is that these planets are probably more abundant than stars, researchers from the ANU Planetary Science Institute have discovered. The institute is a joint venture of the Research School of and the Research School of .

“Determining whether these planets are habitable has become the new holy grail of astronomy,” said planetary scientist Dr. Charley Lineweaver, lead author of the study.

“The new-found abundance of planets, combined with the much larger range of inhabited terrestrial environments suggests that habitable are common. This increases the probability of finding some kind of extraterrestrial life,” he said.

Fellow researcher and PhD student Aditya Chopra said our best estimates of come from the planet we know best: .

“By comparing the inhabited and uninhabited regions of Earth, we can identify the most important factors that determine habitability. For terrestrial life, those factors are liquid water, a narrow range of temperature, and an energy source,” he said.

Dr. Lineweaver added: “Habitability is not just a question of abiotic environmental conditions – the presence of life may be required to maintain the habitability of a planet over billions of years. The study of the habitability of other Earths is the major focus of astrobiology – and increasingly planetary science and astronomy.

“Planetary habitability is a complex and confusing concept that we are only beginning to get our heads around, but as a species that wants to survive, it is in our interest to get our heads around it soon.”

Explore further: Toothpaste fluorine formed in stars

More information: The research has been published in the paper, The Habitability of Our Earth and Other Earths: Astrophysical, Geochemical, Geophysical, and Biological Limits on Planet Habitability, online in the Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences: www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/… -earth-042711-105531

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Coming to a solar system near you… super-Earth!

Aug 08, 2011

It is our general understanding of solar system composition that planets fall into two categories: gas giants like Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus… and rocky bodies that support some type of atmosphere ...

Islands of Life Across Space and Time

Oct 06, 2009

A new study by the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo shows the first quantitative evaluation of planetary habitability. The study identifies some potential habitats in the solar system and also shows how ...

Goldilocks moons

Jan 16, 2012

The search for extraterrestrial life outside our Solar System is currently focused on extrasolar planets within the ‘habitable zones’ of exoplanetary systems around stars similar to the Sun. Finding ...

HARPS tunes in on habitable planet

Sep 05, 2011

Using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), a team of scientists at University of Geneva, Switzerland, led by the Swiss astronomer Stephane Udry made a sound discovery… an Earth-like ...

'Tidal Venuses' may have been wrung out to dry

Mar 29, 2012

Earth-sized exoplanets within a distant star’s habitable zone could still be very much uninhabitable, depending on potential tidal stresses — either past or present — that could have "squeezed ...

Recommended for you

Spectacular supernova's mysteries revealed

12 hours ago

(Phys.org) —New research by a team of UK and European-based astronomers is helping to solve the mystery of what caused a spectacular supernova in a galaxy 11 million light years away, seen earlier this ...

Supernova seen in two lights

13 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra ...

Toothpaste fluorine formed in stars

Aug 21, 2014

The fluorine that is found in products such as toothpaste was likely formed billions of years ago in now dead stars of the same type as our sun. This has been shown by astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, ...

Swirling electrons in the whirlpool galaxy

Aug 20, 2014

The whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 (M51) is seen from a distance of approximately 30 million light years. This galaxy appears almost face-on and displays a beautiful system of spiral arms.

User comments : 0