Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 08:57 AM EDT

Planet Habitability Could Depend on Its Interior Composition Rather than Atmospheric Conditions

May 05, 2019 10:30 PM EDT

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(Photo : David Mark )

For several decades now, humanity has ventured outside the planet in search of the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

So far, only theories have been formulated as there has not been enough evidence found about life forms inhabiting a different planet - that is, until evidence of microbial life forms was found in a meteorite believed to be from Mars.

This renders the question of what does it really take for a planet to be habitable? 

A team of scientists has recently published an essay urging the scientific research community to recognize a vital role of the planet's interior dynamics in creating a hospitable environment that can support life. The essay was put together by a team of investigators with a wide area of expertise ranging from geochemistry to astronomy, and planetary science.

Currently, scientists are observing exoplanets for its capacity to support life according to its atmospheric composition. However, a team of researchers from Carnegie argues that planetary habitability must be considered according to the planet's interior. Researchers Anat Shahar, Alicia Weinberger, Peter Driscoll, George Cody stated in their essay that the planet's atmosphere is linked to and shaped by what is happening inside it.

Citing an example, the Earth's tectonic plate is crucial for maintaining the climate on the surface where life can thrive. The team further explained that without the cycling of material between the Earth's surface and its interior, the convection that drives the planet's magnetic field would not be possible. Anything on the surface of the Earth would have been bombarded by cosmic radiation in the absence of a magnetic field.

Shahar pointed out the need for a better understanding of a planet's composition and interior as this could influence the planet's habitability. He then stated that such research should start with no other than the planet Earth. Shahar then suggested that such research be used as a guide in the search for Exoplanets and star systems that could sustain life.

Driscoll pointed out that whether the geologic and dynamic features that make a planet habitable could be produced on planets with different compositions or not is yet to be discovered.

The experts from Carnegie urged researches on extraterrestrial life be guided by an interdisciplinary approach which combines laboratory experiments of planetary interior conditions, astronomical observations, mathematical modeling, and simulation.

To this, Weinberger puts a highlight on Carnegie scientists who have long been established as world leaders in the field of geography, geochemistry, astrobiology, planetary science, and astronomy.

Cody later concluded that a planet's interior is the heart of habitability.

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