Finding a new Earth could be easier than previously thought
Locating and colonising new habitable worlds is a crucial next step for the continued existence of humankind according to research currently being undertaken by scientists from the Australian National University (ANU).
Research indicates that such planets are more abundant than stars, meaning that the number of habitable planets should be higher than previously estimated.
“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 planets are common. This increases the probability of finding some kind of extraterrestrial life,” 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.”
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: