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May 3 2013

Under pressure: How the density of exoplanets' atmospheres weighs on the odds for alien life


At this early stage in the search for extraterrestrial life in our solar system and beyond, the emphasis is on liquid water. Where it can exist on a planet's or moon's surface, so the thinking goes, life as we know it has a chance. Much of the observational and theoretical work in astrobiology therefore concerns the "habitable zone," the orbital band around stars where a rocky world's water neither freezes away nor boils off.

In a new contribution to this effort, a recent study has looked at a little-explored influencer on the ability of water to remain liquid on a world's surface: atmospheric pressure.

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