Carnegie Institution for Science | 2019 May 02
Which of Earth’s features were essential for the origin and sustenance of life? And how do scientists identify those features on other worlds?
A team of investigators with array of expertise ranging from geochemistry to planetary science to astronomy published this week an essay in Science urging the research community to recognize the vital importance of a planet’s interior dynamics in creating an environment that’s hospitable for life.
With our existing capabilities, observing an exoplanet’s atmospheric composition will be the first way to search for signatures of life elsewhere. However, Carnegie’s Anat Shahar, Peter Driscoll, Alycia Weinberger, and George Cody argue that a true picture of planetary habitability must consider how a planet’s atmosphere is linked to and shaped by what’s happening in its interior.
For example, on Earth, plate tectonics are crucial for maintaining a surface climate where life can thrive. What’s more, without the cycling of material between its surface and interior, the convection that drives the Earth’s magnetic field would not be possible, and without a magnetic field, we would be bombarded by cosmic radiation. ...
The Carnegie colleagues assert that the search for extraterrestrial life must be guided by an interdisciplinary approach that combines astronomical observations, laboratory experiments of planetary interior conditions, and mathematical modeling and simulations. ...
What makes a planet habitable? ~ Anat Shahar et al
- Science 364(4639):434 (03 May 2019) DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw4326