Earth is our only example of a planet that is habitable and inhabited. For this reason, it is the prime example researchers look to when understanding habitability and life that may exist elsewhere. Using Earth as a model, researchers can use information about its environment to better understand the habitability of other planets in our solar system and beyond. Scientists can also apply what is known about Earth to study the histories of other planets and whether they may have once been able to support life. These analyses may consider factors such as the chemical evolution of Earth’s atmosphere through time, its atmospheric dynamics and loss, and the impact of surface and biological processes on the environment. The rich data available on Earth can also be used to validate exoplanet models, making these tools more applicable to a diverse array of worlds. Extending these validated models to other planetary systems, such as by varying the orbit and type of host star, will allow researchers to consider what impacts these processes have on a planet’s ability to support life.
Just as Earth can guide our understanding of other habitable worlds, exoplanets can help us place Earth and our solar system into a broader context, informing us of how common habitable conditions are. Exoplanets at earlier stages of evolution could also shed light on processes that operated on Earth or other planets in the solar system in the past. Discovering and exploring other habitable worlds will help us understand whether Earth and other planets in our solar system are rare or simply a standard outcome of planetary formation.
Vladimir Airapetian, Giada Arney, Tony Del Genio, Shawn Domagal-Goldman, Thomas Fauchez, Alex Glocer, Scott Guzewich, Nancy Kiang, Ravi Kopparapu, Weijia Kuang, Avi Mandell, Luke Oman, Jeremy Schnittman, Linda Sohl, Kostas Tsigaridis, Michael Way
Key Questions Guiding SEEC Research
By studying ways that biospheres interact with planetary environments, SEEC researchers are pioneering methods to detect life on other worlds.
A vast multitude of physical, chemical, and geological processes combine to produce the characteristics of a specific exoplanet’s atmosphere and surface that will be visible to future telescopes.
Planetary habitability results from a complex network of interactions between the planet, its planetary system, and host star.
In our quest to find life outside of our solar system, we look for planets that resemble Earth, the only planet that we know of that is habitable.
Earth is our only example of a planet that is habitable and inhabited, and as such represents the archetypical habitable environment for remote sensing and mission development studies.