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11 - Other Habitability Factors

from Part III - Planetary Systems and Life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2020

Wallace Arthur
Affiliation:
National University of Ireland, Galway
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Summary

Here, I consider other factors than distance from a star that may affect a planet’s habitability. These include its atmosphere, its magnetic field, and whether it has any moons. However, I emphasize that it is important not to draw up a list of all the Earth’s specific features, for example its unusually large Moon (which helps to stabilize its axial tilt) and make the assumption that all of these are necessary for another planet to support life. Making such an assumption leads to the Rare Earth hypothesis, which I regard as flawed. For life to originate on a planet, there must be places where conditions favour the biochemical evolution that leads to proto-cells and hence to life. For life to continue and diversify, there must be places where organisms can survive. Even if conditions are normally benign, all planets are subject to occasional major threats, such as impacts and glaciations. I examine the mass extinctions on our own planet, some of which were caused by asteroids impacting our surface. Finally, I examine a problem that Earth is not subject to – tidal locking. This may be a major problem for planets in the habitable zones of red dwarfs.

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The Biological Universe
Life in the Milky Way and Beyond
, pp. 168 - 185
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Other Habitability Factors
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.015
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  • Other Habitability Factors
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.015
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Other Habitability Factors
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.015
Available formats
×