What makes a planet livable? Five things scientists look for.

Scientists have so far detected at least 550 planets outside the solar system – and another 2,000-plus await confirmation. But how to pick out the ones that may be Earth-like havens for life? Here's what one team looks for in assessing any planet's potential habitability and its similarity to Earth's properties. 

By , Staff writer

2. If the planet (or a moon) isn't similar to Earth, could it still host life?

To answer this question, the team looks at four broad requirements. The first is a platform or substrate on which life can gain a toehold. It could be rock or ice. Either provides a stable platform, can corral chemical elements that can serve as food, and provides a surface on which chemical reactions can take place.

An atmosphere and a planetary magnetic field would be big pluses as shields from excessive radiation from space. Plate tectonics also would be a big plus because it recycles elements on the surface and helps stabilize a planet's climate.

2 of 5

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...