Habitable Zones & Global Climate

Lessons From Early Earth: UV surface Radiation Should Not Limit The habitability Of Active M Star Systems

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 8, 2019
Filed under
Lessons From Early Earth: UV surface Radiation Should Not Limit The habitability Of Active M Star Systems
Earthlike Planet Orbiting M Star

The closest potentially habitable worlds outside our Solar system orbit a different kind of star than our Sun: smaller red dwarf stars.

Such stars can flare frequently, bombarding their planets with biologically damaging high-energy UV radiation, placing planetary atmospheres at risk of erosion and bringing the habitability of these worlds into question. However, the surface UV flux on these worlds is unknown. Here we show the first models of the surface UV environments of the four closest potentially habitable exoplanets: Proxima-b, TRAPPIST-1e, Ross-128b, and LHS-1140b assuming different atmospheric compositions, spanning Earth-analogue to eroded and anoxic atmospheres and compare them to levels for Earth throughout its geological evolution.

Even for planet models with eroded and anoxic atmospheres, surface UV radiation remains below early Earth levels, even during flares. Given that the early Earth was inhabited, we show that UV radiation should not be a limiting factor for the habitability of planets orbiting M stars. Our closest neighbouring worlds remain intriguing targets for the search for life beyond our Solar system.

Jack T. O’Malley-James, Lisa Kaltenegger
(Submitted on 8 Apr 2019)

Comments: This article has been accepted for publication in MNRAS, published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1904.03956 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1904.03956v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Jack O’Malley-James
[v1] Mon, 8 Apr 2019 11:15:22 UTC (1,610 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻