Tag Archives: dorian abbot

Exoplanet study finds ‘super-Earths’ likely have oceans and continents

Massive terrestrial planets, called “super-Earths,” are known to be common in Earth’s galaxy, the Milky Way. Now a Northwestern University astrophysicist and a University of Chicago geophysicist report the odds of these planets having an Earth-like climate are much greater than previously thought.

Nicolas B. Cowan and Dorian Abbot’s new model challenges the conventional wisdom, which says super-Earths actually would be very unlike Earth—each would be a waterworld, with its surface completely covered in water. They conclude that most tectonically active super-Earths—regardless of mass—store most of their water in the mantle and will have both oceans and exposed continents, enabling a stable climate such as Earth’s. (more…)

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Cloud modeling expands estimate of life-supporting planets

Larger habitable zone suggests 60 billion planets could sustain water, life

A new study that calculates the influence of cloud behavior on climate doubles the number of potentially habitable planets orbiting red dwarfs, the most common type of star in the universe. This finding means that in the Milky Way galaxy alone, 60 billion planets may be orbiting red dwarf stars in the habitable zone.

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University based their study, which appears in Astrophysical Journal Letters, on rigorous computer simulations of cloud behavior on alien planets. This cloud behavior dramatically expanded the estimated habitable zone of red dwarfs, which are much smaller and fainter than stars like the sun. (more…)

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UChicago Launches Search for Distant Worlds

Since 1995, scientists have discovered approximately 600 planets around other stars, including 50 planets last month alone, and one that orbits two stars, like Tatooine in Star Wars. Detection of the first Earthlike planet remains elusive, however, and now the University of Chicago joins the search with the addition of Jacob Bean and Daniel Fabrycky to the faculty.

“I can’t imagine a more profound impact on humanity than the discovery that there are other Earthlike worlds or that we are not alone,” said Rocky Kolb, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and department chairman. (more…)

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