Surface composition determines temperature and therefore habitability of a planet

“The KU Leuven researchers created models in which the surface-atmosphere interaction on the exoplanet is the same as on Earth, and models in which there is ten times as much interaction as on Earth. In the latter case, the exoplanets had a more habitable climate. If planets with a well-functioning ‘air conditioning’ system also have the right atmosphere composition, there’s a good chance that these exoplanets are habitable.”

Watts Up With That?

Astronomers from KU Leuven, Belgium, have shown that the interaction between the surface and the atmosphere of an exoplanet has major consequences for the temperature on the planet. This temperature, in turn, is a crucial element in the quest for habitable planets outside our Solar System.

The figures show the wind, temperature, and surface-atmosphere friction on a planet 1.45 times the size of the Earth in a 1-day orbit around an M dwarf. The two topmost figures show the wind and the temperature in the upper layers of the atmosphere. The two figures in the middle show the wind and the temperature on the surface of the planet. On the left-hand figures, the surface-atmosphere friction equals that on Earth. On the right-hand figures, there is ten times as much friction between surface and atmosphere than is the case on Earth. Both scenarios have a different impact on the climate of a planet: the climate represented in the right-hand figures is more habitable. CREDIT KU Leuven - Ludmila Carone and Leen Decin The figures show the wind, temperature, and surface-atmosphere friction on a planet 1.45 times the size of the Earth in a 1-day orbit around an M dwarf. The two topmost figures show the wind and the temperature in the upper layers of the atmosphere. The two figures in the middle show the wind and the temperature on the surface of the planet. On the left-hand figures, the surface-atmosphere friction equals that on Earth. On the right-hand figures, there is ten times as much friction between surface and atmosphere than is the case on Earth. Both scenarios have a different impact on the climate of…

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