One of humanity’s biggest doubts, planetary habitability can be “defined as the zone around a star in which a planet is capable of maintaining liquid water on its surface”.
This concept, cited by scientist Dimitra Atri and student Shane Carberry Mogan, is part of a study published on Sunday (8) in the magazine Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, which aims to clarify which types of star systems are most likely to host aliens.
After observing about 500 stars, the two scholars at the Space Science Center at New York University in Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) concluded that planets subject to occasional intense explosions are probably more likely to live than worlds with a steady stream of radiation and low-energy explosions that destroy their protective atmospheres.
Returning to the initial concept of planetary habitability, Atri points out that, while maintaining liquid water is a useful requirement for identifying potentially habitable planets around stars, it does not take into account the potentially harmful effect of stellar activity on these planets.
Thus, the two scientists tried to understand how stellar luminosity and stellar eruptions (flares) can lead to a loss of atmospheric gases in habitable zones over long periods of time. According to the study, these are the main factors that determine planetary habitability.
To prove their hypotheses, the researchers investigated occurrences of stellar flares and other threatening space weather events on hundreds of stars observable by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). From these data, the team developed a model of erosion and loss of planetary atmospheres by space climate, in time scales of up to one billion years.