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Thesis: The Habitability of Exoplanets

Braam, M. (2017) Thesis: The Habitability of Exoplanets. Bachelor's Thesis, Astronomy.

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Abstract:In recent years the number of known exoplanets has exploded to around 3500, but the majority of these planets are inhospitable to life as we know it. This thesis presents research on the habitability of exoplanets, by first reviewing the different criteria that define a habitable environment and after that computations of some parameters for habitability. Different solvents have been considered in computing the parameters, namely H2O, CH4 , NH3 and N2 . Planetary albedo has a strong influence on the planetary equilibrium temperature, therefore it is an important factor in defining the habitability. Another important constraint is the solid surface limit, which excludes gas and ice giants. The maximum eccentricity to keep a planet inside the Habitable Zone(HZ) during its orbit ranges from 0.746 up to 0.844 for different solvents. This is satisfied by 98 to 99% of planets with known eccentricity. Even though the maximum eccentricity is dependent on where in the HZ the planet is located, it has a small impact in constraining the number of habitable planets. Applying the parameters leads to nine planets from the NASA Exoplanet Archive that might be considered candidates to be habitable, according to the criteria discussed here. This is out of 600 planets left, the others have one or more of the important parameters missing in the archive. Furthermore it has been found that the amount of atmospheric CO2 strongly influences the equilibrium temperature and therefore the outer limit of the Habitable Zone. For already the near future, the search for exoplanets will be focused on Earth-like planets and somewhat larger rocky planets. In addition atmospheric compositions will be studied using transit spectroscopy and hence a habitable exoplanet might be confirmed.

Item Type: Thesis (Bachelor's Thesis)
Degree programme: Astronomy
Thesis type: Bachelor's Thesis
Language: English
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 08:28
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2018 08:28

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