Monday, January 11, 2016

Mixed Surface Features may be Required for Terrestrial Planets to be Habitable

Water On -and In- Terrestrial Planets


Cowan et al


Earth has a unique surface character among Solar System worlds. Not only does it harbor liquid water, but also large continents. An exoplanet with a similar appearance would remind us of home, but it is not obvious whether such a planet is more likely to bear life than an entirely ocean-covered waterworld---after all, surface liquid water defines the canonical habitable zone. In this proceeding, I argue that 1) Earth's bimodal surface character is critical to its long-term climate stability and hence is a signpost of habitability, and 2) we will be able to constrain the surface character of terrestrial exoplanets with next-generation space missions.

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