Scientists have had a working — and evolving — understanding of the interior of the Earth for only a century or so. But determining whether a distant planet is truly habitable may require an understanding of its inner dynamics — which will for sure be a challenge to achieve. (Harvard=Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
The quest to find habitable — and perhaps inhabited — planets and moons beyond Earth focuses largely on their location in a solar system and the nature of its host star, the eccentricity of its orbit, its size and rockiness, and the chemical composition of its atmosphere, assuming that it has one.
Astronomy, astrophysics, cosmochemistry and many other disciplines have made significant progress in characterizing at least some of the billions of exoplanets out there, although measuring the chemical makeup of atmospheres remains a immature field.
But what if these basic characteristics aren’t sufficient to answer necessary questions about whether a planet is habitable? What if more information — and even more difficult to collect information — is needed?
That’s the position of many planetary scientists who argue that the dynamics of a planet’s interior are essential to understand its habitability.
With our existing capabilities, observing an ...