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Axial Tilt, Habitability, and Centauri B

21 Nov 2019, 18:28 UTC
Axial Tilt, Habitability, and Centauri B
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Our fascination with Alpha Centauri doubtless propels at least some of the recent interest in binary star systems, as we ponder the chances for habitable worlds around the nearest stars. But given that the population of binary or multiple star systems in our galaxy is as high as it is (multiple systems are common, and about 50 percent of stars have binary companions), determining the factors that influence habitability in this environment has much broader significance. A new study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology has been looking at the issue by modeling an Earth twin in various binary scenarios.
So how does Alpha Centauri fare? We can find habitable zones in the Centauri A/B system, and into these the researchers introduced a simulated Earth around Centauri B to examine its axis dynamics. They also investigate the dynamical evolution of planets within the habitable zone of either star, generalizing from these results to the larger binary star population. The issue to be addressed: Does the axial tilt, or obliquity, of our planet, apparently a key feature in maintaining a habitable climate, survive the transition into a binary system with the features of Alpha Centauri? The answer is not encouraging ...

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