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Abstract

For life-forms like us, the most important feature of Earth is its habitability. Understanding habitability and using that knowledge to locate the nearest habitable planet may be crucial for our survival as a species. During the past decade, expectations that the universe could be filled with habitable planets have been bolstered by the increasingly large overlap between terrestrial environments known to harbor life and the variety of environments on newly detected rocky exoplanets. The inhabited and uninhabited regions on Earth tell us that temperature and the presence of water are the main constraints that can be used in a habitability classification scheme for rocky planets. Our compilation and review of recent exoplanet detections suggests that the fraction of stars with planets is ∼100%, and that the fraction with rocky planets may be comparably large. We review extensions to the circumstellar habitable zone (HZ), including an abiogenesis habitable zone and the galactic habitable zone.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105531
2012-05-30
2024-04-20
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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