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Exoplanets With Complex Life May Be Very Rare, Even in Their “Habitable Zones”

14 Jun 2019, 14:54 UTC
Exoplanets With Complex Life May Be Very Rare, Even in Their “Habitable Zones”
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The term “habitable zone” can be a misleading one, since it describes a limited number of conditions on a planet to make it hospitable to life. (NASA)

For years now, finding planets in the habitable zones of their host stars has been a global astrophysical quest and something of a holy grail. That distance from a star where temperatures could allow H20 to remain liquid some of the time has been deemed the “Goldilocks” zone where life could potentially emerge and survive.
The term is valuable for sure, but many in the field worry that it can be as misleading or confusing as it is helpful.
Because while the habitable zone is a function of the physics and architecture of a solar system, so much more is needed to make a planet actually potentially habitable. Does it have an atmosphere? Does it have a magnetic field. Does it orbit on an elliptical path that takes it too far (and too close) to the sun? Was it sterilized during the birth of the host star and orbiting planets? What kind of star does it orbit, and how old and luminous is that star?
And then there’s the sometimes confused ...

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