Astronomers from Cornell have developed a practical model that they call an environmental color decoder. The new practical model is designed to find climate clues to help in the search for potentially habitable exoplanets. The astronomers looked at how different planetary surfaces in the habitable zones of distant solar systems could impact the climate on the exoplanets.
The team says reflected light on the surface of the planet plays a role in the overall climate and also the detectable spectra of Earth-like planets. The scientist combined the detail of the planet’s surface color, and the light from its host start to calculate a climate. The team says that a rocky, black basalt planet absorbs light well and would be very hot.
However, if sand or clouds was added, the planet cools. Meanwhile, a planet that has vegetation and circles a reddish K-star would have cool temperatures because of how the surface reflects the sunlight. The color of the planet can mitigate some of the energy given off by its host star.
What makes up the surface of the exoplanet, how many clouds are around the planet, and the color of the sun can change the planet’s climate significantly. The scientists are looking forward to instruments that will come online, like the Earth-bound Extremely Large Telescope, that will allow them to gather data to test a catalog of climate predictions.
Astronomers say there is an important interaction between the color of an exoplanet’s surface and the light that hits it. These effects can help scientists in the search for extraterrestrial life.