How Long Could Exoplanets Be Habitable For?

How Long Could Exoplanets Be Habitable For?

Planet Gliese 581 d.png


Recent findings in our own galaxy have seen a number of Exoplanets, a couple of which may be real candidates to support life. Further studies of Kepler 22b and Gliese 581D have observed that these Exoplanets (planets found OUTSIDE our own solar system) may have at least 4 billion years left before they become uninhabitable, and Gliese 581D may well be habitable for another 50 billion years.


So how does this information affect us here on planet Earth?

 

Earth is estimated to have another 1.75 billion years, or maybe as long as 2.5 billion, before it will no longer support life. The distance between our planet and the sun will be too close and all the liquid on the planet will evaporate. Human beings in our current form have little chance of surviving for those 1.75 billion years. But, still this information is important because it gives us a guide as to how we, as a complex life form, could evolve.

 

If we take Gliese 581D, a recently discovered planet sitting about 20 light years away from us, and look at its stability as a planet that may support life 20 times longer than Earth. We may see species that live there (assuming extra-terrestrial life does exist) evolving slower than us humans would do. When scientists look at these Exoplanets and see the metrics of how long its habitat has left, it could determine how advanced any complex life forms may have developed. After all, just because a planet might have the ideal conditions to support life, it could be that it hasn’t quite developed there yet.

 

Our own earth was habitable about a billion years or so ago, but we were still evolving in primeval soups and slithering along the ground. Evolution can take a very long time, as we know, but knowing how much time an exoplanet has in terms of habitable shelf life, could give us a very good guess at how advanced any civilization on that planet could be.

 

Scientists used stellar models of evolution to determine how long the habitat of a distant planet would last, and were forced to look far beyond our own solar system to get the inspiration for this kind of data. Much of the work was performed by astrobiology scientists at a university in the east of England.

Image of Gliese 581-D: Tyrogthekreeper

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