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Astronomers Develop Climate 'Decoder' To Explore Habitable Conditions On Exoplanets

Cornell University astronomers developed ‘an environmental colour decoder’ to unravel climate signal for potentially habitable exoplanets in galaxies far away.


Cornell University astronomers examined a dozen types of suns and a roster of planet surfaces and developed ‘an environmental colour decoder’ to unravel climate signal for potentially habitable exoplanets in galaxies far away.

"We looked at how different planetary surfaces in the habitable zones of distant solar systems could affect the climate on exoplanets," said Jack Madden, associate professor of astronomy and director of Cornell's Carl Sagan Institute.

"Reflected light on the surface of planets plays a significant role not only on the overall climate but also on the detectable spectra of Earth-like planets," Madden added.

Madden and Kaltenegger are co-authors of 'How Surfaces Shape the Climate of Habitable Exoplanets,' released in the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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About their research

In their research, they combine detail of a planet's surface colour and the light from its host star to calculate a climate. "Think about wearing a dark shirt on a hot summer day. You are going to heat up more because the dark shirt is not reflecting light. It has a low albedo (it absorbs light) and it retains heat. If you wear a light colour, such as white, its high albedo reflects the light -- and your shirt keeps you cool," Madden said.

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Depending on the kind of star and the exoplanet's primary colour, the planet's colour can mitigate some of the energy given off by the star. The number of clouds surrounding the exoplanet determines its surface. The colour of the sun can change an exoplanet's climate significantly, Kaltenegger said.

Madden said that forthcoming instruments like the Earth-bound Extremely Large Telescope will allow scientists to gather data to test a catalogue of climate predictions.

"There is an important interaction between the colour of a surface and the light hitting it. The effects we found based on a planet's surface properties can help in the search for life," he further said.

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(With inputs from ANI)

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