Earth is the only planet on which life is known to have originated. Earth has abundant surface water, a large moon, a long-lived magnetic field, and plate tectonics. Yet, which of these and other characteristics are essential for long-term habitability? How have Earth’s physical and chemical attributes, and thus our planet’s proclivity for life, evolved? How can we recognize distant worlds around other stars that have been or could be habitable? A new research centre, which is the first of its kind in Norway, will explore these questions that have captivated scientists for centuries
The idea that worlds around other stars could develop and maintain environments hospitable to life ? in a way similar to our planet ? has captivated scientists for centuries. Yet, to investigate this question, we must recognize and characterize the key conditions that make a planet habitable. This endeavor is the prime objective for the proposed Centre for Planetary Habitability (PHAB).
The only planet on which life is known to have originated (Earth) appears unique in many ways, including the presence of abundant surface water, a large moon, a long-lived magnetic field and plate tectonics. Yet, which of these characteristics (and other) are essential for its long-term habitability? Equally, how have Earth’s physical and chemical attributes, and thus our planet’s proclivity for life, evolved? How can we recognize distant worlds around other stars that have been or could be habitable? These questions, and a new understanding of planetary habitability unfolding from them, are especially important as we now embark on an unprecedented era of exploration and discovery of extra-solar planetary systems.
PHAB will holistically explore the formation and evolution of star-planet systems with the Solar System and the Earth-Moon couple as reference and focus. Our research activities will comprise three interrelated research themes: (1) PLANETS AND EARLY EARTH, (2) MODERN EARTH and (3) EXO-EARTHS. Knowledge collected from Earth and other rocky planets in the Solar System will enable us to recognize the key conditions for planetary habitability and to develop predictive models to identify habitable planets around other stars.
A Centre dedicated to research on the habitability of star-planet systems will be the first of its kind in Norway. We are a uniquely cross-disciplinary and complementary team. Because the foundation of our work will be built on the world we know the best (Earth), our endeavor will be unique worldwide.