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In Search for a Planet Better than Earth: Top Contenders for a Superhabitable World

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Heller,  René
Department Solar and Stellar Interiors, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Schulze-Makuch, D., Heller, R., & Guinan, E. (2020). In Search for a Planet Better than Earth: Top Contenders for a Superhabitable World. Astrobiology, 20(12). doi:10.1089/ast.2019.2161.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-1DED-F
Abstract
The fact that Earth is teeming with life makes it appear odd to ask whether there could be other planets in our galaxy that may be even more suitable for life. Neglecting this possible class of “superhabitable” planets, however, could be considered anthropocentric and geocentric biases. Most important from the perspective of an observer searching for extrasolar life is that such a search might be executed most effectively with a focus on superhabitable planets instead of Earth-like planets. We argue that there could be regions of astrophysical parameter space of star-planet systems that could allow for planets to be even better for life than our Earth. We aim to identify those parameters and their optimal ranges, some of which are astrophysically motivated, whereas others are based on the varying habitability of the natural history of our planet. Some of these conditions are far from being observationally testable on planets outside the solar system. Still, we can distill a short list of 24 top contenders among the >4000 exoplanets known today that could be candidates for a superhabitable planet. In fact, we argue that, with regard to the search for extrasolar life, potentially superhabitable planets may deserve higher priority for follow-up observations than most Earth-like planets.