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Exoplanet Axis Study Boosts Hopes of Complex Life, Just Not Next Door

25 Nov 2019, 11:39 UTC
Exoplanet Axis Study Boosts Hopes of Complex Life, Just Not Next Door
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“They’re out there,” goes a saying about extraterrestrials. It would seem more likely to be true in light of a new study on planetary axis tilts. Astrophysicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology modeled a theoretical twin of Earth into other star systems called binary systems because they have two stars. They concluded that 87% of exo-Earths one might find in binary systems should have axis tilts similarly steady to Earth’s, an important ingredient for climate stability that favors the evolution of complex life.“Multiple-star systems are common, and about 50% of stars have binary companion stars. So, this study can be applied to a large number of solar systems,” said Gongjie Li, the study’s co-investigator an assistant professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Physics.Single-star solar systems like our own with multiple planets appear to be rarer.The researchers started out contrasting how the Earth’s axis tilt, also called obliquity, varies over time with the variation of Mars’ axis tilt. Whereas our planet’s mild obliquity variations have been great for a livable climate and for evolution, the wilder variations of Mars' axis tilt may have helped wreck its atmosphere, as explained in the section below.Then the researchers modeled Earth into habitable, or ...

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