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Exoplenets And The Search For Life

2363 words - 10 pages

When exoplanets are found and observed they are classified into groups and subclasses. These planets can be analyzed and characterized to determine the type of planet and their atmospheric composition. Most of the time exoplanets can be grouped by their size. Exoplanets are also grouped by if the planet is in the Habitable Zone or not. The Habitable zone is a region around a star which makes the conditions suitable for water; thus having the possibility for life on the planet. Here is a diagram of the habitable zone:

The red is too warm, the blue is too cold, and the green is just right. No wonder they call that area the “Goldilock’s Zone”. There is only one problem with the ...view middle of the document...

Now scientists study what the interior of the planets are like and what they’re made up of. Researchers now have realized the limitations because they can only measure the mass and the radius of the exoplanet; scientists can’t get any other information about the interior of the exoplanet. Until now scientists have not found anything about the interior of exoplanets.

Scientists that want to find exoplanets today want to find an Earth-like planet. To find a planet like this, scientists should look for M dwarfs. M dwarfs are stars that are smaller than the sun. If scientists are trying to find a planet by seeing how much of the M dwarfs light that that planet blocks they might have found a planet close to the size of Earth. So far scientists haven’t found a planet just like Earth; but keep your hopes up, they might find some in the near future.

The atmosphere for exoplanets plays a role in classifying them too. The atmosphere for other exoplanets are very different to Earth’s. There is a job growing just to study the atmospheres of different exoplanets. Studying the atmospheres is really hard because we don’t have a view of these planets all the time. One group of exoplanets with the same atmospheric conditions are called “Hot Jupiters”. Hot Jupiters are planets that are about the same size of Jupiter but orbit closer to their star than Earth and Jupiter do to the Sun. This short orbit causes the atmospheric conditions to be really hot. Studying the atmospheres of planets that are smaller comes with a problem with the data not fitting with different solutions. The models reflect the planets interior, but not just the atmosphere. The atmosphere of a group of even smaller planets, called “Super Earths”, contains thick haze or cloud of Hydrogen. These atmospheres can also be dominated by dense steam.

One of the ultimate goals for astronomers today is to find a planet just like our home, Earth. But sadly most of the exoplanets discovered do not resemble Earth at all or anything near it. So meeting this goal is a hard task for astronomers. But astronomers have an eye on one planet that is about the same size as Earth (about 20% bigger). The name of that planet is Kepler 78b. It was found by the satellite named Kepler. The orbit of Kepler 78b is very extraordinary. It circles the sun forty times closer than the orbit of Mercury. Because of this, astronomers say that this planet should decay; this does not really bring our hopes up for an Earth-like planet. So there are not any big discoveries or findings yet for another Earth.

On 4/17/14 an exoplanet known as Kepler-186f was discovered. It is the most earth resembling planet ever discovered. Kepler-186f is 20% larger than earth. It probably has all the necessary elements for life to exist and contain life. It is also very rocky and in the Goldilock’s zone. It’s parent star is 500 AU away from Earth. The parent star is a red dwarf star thus not as strong as the sun. Red dwarf stars...

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