Astronomers create 'Habitability index' that will make hunt for alien life easy
University of Washington's virtual planetary laboratory astronomers have come up with a way to compare and rank exoplanets to help in prioritizing which of the thousands found warrant close inspection to seek life beyond Earth.
The latest metric, known as ‘habitability index for transiting planets’, has produced a continuum of values that can be punched by astronomers into a virtual planetary laboratory web form for arriving at the single-number ‘habitability index’ that represents the probability of a planet’s ability to maintain liquid water at its surface.
Astronomy professor Rory Barnes explained, “We have devised a way to take all available observational data and develop prioritization scheme so that as we move into time when there are hundreds of targets available, we might be able to say, 'OK, that's one we want to start with’”.
With the help of the index, fellow astronomers will be able to decide which worlds might have the better possibility of hosting life.
Astronomers usually have focused the search by looking for planets in their star's ‘habitable zone’, which are informally known as the ‘Goldilocks zone’.
The researchers have factored in estimates of a planet's rockiness, rocky planets being the more Earth-like., while creating the index.
Astronomy professor Victoria Meadows said that this innovative step has allowed them to move beyond the two-dimensional habitable zone concept for the generation of a flexible framework to prioritize that can include a number of observable characteristics and factors, affecting planetary habitability.
With the help of the Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have detected thousands of exoplanets, including the ones beyond our solar system.
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