To be habitable, a world (planet or moon) does not need to be located in the stellar habitable zone (HZ), and worlds in the HZ are not necessarily habitable.
Here, we illustrate how tidal heating can render terrestrial or icy worlds habitable beyond the stellar HZ. Scientists have developed a language that neglects the possible existence of worlds that offer more benign environments to life than Earth does. We call these objects "superhabitable" and discuss in which contexts this term could be used, that is to say, which worlds tend to be more habitable than Earth. In an appendix, we show why the principle of mediocracy cannot be used to logically explain why Earth should be a particularly habitable planet or why other inhabited worlds should be Earth-like.
Superhabitable worlds must be considered for future follow-up observations of signs of extraterrestrial life. Considering a range of physical effects, we conclude that they will tend to be slightly older and more massive than Earth and that their host stars will likely be K dwarfs. This makes Alpha Centauri B, member of the closest stellar system to the Sun that is supposed to host an Earth-mass planet, an ideal target for searches of a superhabitable world.
Rene Heller (1), John Armstrong (2) ((1) McMaster University, Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, Hamilton (ON), Canada, (2) Weber State University, Dept. of Physics, Ogden (UT), USA) (Submitted on 10 Jan 2014)
Comments: Published in Astrobiology (Jan. 2014), 18 pages, 3 color figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
DOI: 10.1089/ast.2013.1088 Cite as: arXiv:1401.2392 [astro-ph.EP]
(or arXiv:1401.2392v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history From: Rene Heller [v1] Fri, 10 Jan 2014 16:10:36 GMT (1296kb)
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