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Astrobiology. 2014 Jan;14(1):50-66. doi: 10.1089/ast.2013.1088. Epub 2013 Dec 31.

Superhabitable worlds.

Author information

1
1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, McMaster University , Hamilton, Ontario, Canada .

Abstract

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, which is a member of the closest stellar system to the Sun and is supposed to host an Earth-mass planet, an ideal target for searches for a superhabitable world.

PMID:
24380533
DOI:
10.1089/ast.2013.1088
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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