NASA has a new model that improves the space agency’s odds of identifying habitable exoplanets. The model is based on new NASA research that determines conditions across three different dimensions instead of one, as previous models did. With this, NASA says, researchers will be better able to determine which exoplanets are worth exploring (from a habitability standpoint).
NASA detailed the new model yesterday, explaining that it is part of an overall larger effort by experts to discover planets that have a high potential for being able to support life. Many exoplanets have been found, some thought to be in ranges that could sustain life; determining whether these planets have high chances of supporting life, though, is an ongoing process.
New research has resulted in this new model which tweaks some previously held info about determining habitability. NASA explains that the new research has shed light on the fact that an exoplanet closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun could still have conditions that make it habitable. Previously it was thought that these planets were too close to their own stars to have a habitable environment.
When a planet is close to its star, the higher temperatures mean increased rates of water loss, eventually causing the oceans to dry up. Without water, there’s no habitability. However, an exoplanet’s close distance to its parent star could retain habitability for very long periods of time due to the near-infrared radiation the star outputs. Talking about that, NASA said:
For exoplanets closer to their stars, the team found that the NIR-driven process increased moisture in the stratosphere gradually. So, it’s possible, contrary to old model predictions, that an exoplanet closer to its parent star could remain habitable.