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Researchers Create 'Habitability Index' For Exoplanets 52

hypnosec writes: The Kepler Space Telescope has allowed astronomers to detect and catalog thousands of exoplanets and exoplanet candidates. With more powerful telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope scheduled for launch, scientists will be able to check if any of these exoplanets are habitable. But these space telescopes are expensive to create, and access time is coveted. This means simply pointing telescopes to random exoplanets isn't a practical proposition. That's why researchers have created what they call a "habitability index for transiting planets," with which astronomers will be able to prioritize the use of space telescopes for finding habitable planets. Their paper is available at the arXiv.
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Researchers Create 'Habitability Index' For Exoplanets

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  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @10:17PM (#50676153) Journal

    The most habitable worlds, of course, are class M.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't ever forget 'climate change', you insensitive clod!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You do realize that those classes are fictional, don't you? And according to those classifications, other classes besides M are habitable though perhaps not by humans. Looking through the solar system, here's how I'd classify the planets:

      Mercury: Class K (because of the lack of atmosphere, but sufficient gravity)
      Venus: Class N (generally these are planets with high CO2 and sulfides in a very thick atmosphere, though class N has been used for other purposes, too)
      Earth: Class M
      Mars: Class K (again because of

      • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @11:49PM (#50676557)

        Yes, they're fictional, but it's a good start, since after all it proves that modern-day researchers weren't the first people to think of classifying planets by their habitability characteristics. Also, the simple "class [letter]" scheme is easy to remember and use; I sure hope they don't come up with some arcane, complicated system instead. Finally, they should definitely use "Class M" to refer to Earth-like planets simply to pay homage to Star Trek. Everyone and his brother knows what a "Class M" planet is, as long as they watched some Star Trek within the last 50 years.

        It looks like you got your classes from Star Trek too, as seen here [], but with some differences. I'm not sure where you got Class Q or I. The system probably does need a little revision though. Class H's "generally uninhabitable" doesn't tell you why. The Class P (see appendices) for icy planets is a good example. Class N for "sulphuric" really isn't sufficient; Venus is more like the Class Y "demon planet" except there's no dilithium-based biomimetic lifeforms, but the fact that Venus is so hot is important it needs to be classified that way. If a planet is too cold or too hot to live on, that's an important factor for humans. Same if there's no atmosphere. A planet (or moon) that's not too warm or hot but has no atmosphere can still be inhabited using domes or other sealed habitats, so that should be a class by itself. Mercury probably wouldn't fit there however, because it's much too hot. But it's hot in a different way than Venus, so they should have different classifications (hot because it's too close to the star, vs. hot because it has a thick atmosphere and runaway greenhouse effect). Finally, moons and planets should be classified together. The orbital path doesn't really matter (except insofar as it affects the climate/temperature). There could very well be Earth-like moons out there somewhere, so those should be Class M (like the moon in "Avatar").

        So here's my proposal which borrows from ST:
        Class M - Earth-like, small, rocky, oxygenated atmosphere, right temperature
        Class D - small, rocky, little to no atmosphere, right temperature, inhabitable with sealed habitats (e.g. Mars)
        Class J - gas giant (any size; this may be expanded later after we explore more star systems and decide we need to classify them further)
        Class E - small, rocky, little to no atmosphere, too cold (e.g. Pluto)
        Class F - small, rocky, little to no atmosphere, too hot (e.g. Mercury)
        Class G - small, thick atmosphere, too hot (e.g. Venus)
        Class A - very very small, not spherical (e.g. moons of Mars, captured asteroids)
        Class B - very small, spherical but extremely low gravity (e.g. Sedna, Ceres, Pluto, dwarf planets in general)

        I'm probably missing something here, perhaps planets with only liquid surfaces. I avoided calling Venus "Class N" because it sounds too much like "Class M".

        • If we're grading planets according to habitability, it's fairly binary - habitable or non habitable. Until we've mastered the effects of low or high gravity on people anything not almost exactly earthlike is going to be more effort for less return than a large space station. You might fine tune it a bit by adding a third category - habitable with modifications, like say a semi toxic atmosphere you can survive with air filters. Even then considering how much of the earth's atmosphere is a result of its biosp

        • Classifying and indexing aren't the same thing.

        • If you invent such a schema then Class-E is obviously "earth like".

          There is absolutely nothing "easy to remember" in your schema.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Class H's "generally uninhabitable" doesn't tell you why.

          It's typically because there is a giant blob of an amorphic entity bent on making doppelgangers of anyone who steps foot on them. Also the atmospheres are typically highly corrosive. The "H" in "Class H" is short for "Hell."

        • by s.petry ( 762400 )

          Yes, they're fictional, but it's a good start,

          Perfectly appropriate too, since habitation off of earth is also fictional.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      The most habitable worlds, of course, are class M.

      Well, you should at least find plenty of Roddenberries.

    • Well, long time ago the earth was flat, and nothing lied beyond the oceans. Maybe it's time.
  • Will likely be invaded by freeloading yuppies the following year.

    • The bastards. At least with hipsters you know they'll be gone after a year or two, when it's gone mainstream.

  • I thought that said "hitability".

  • Has anyone classified ... (must stop) Ura....NO! (throwing keyboard across room)

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