Habitable Exoplanets: The Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System

Kepler-186f , the first discovered Earth-size planet in the habitable zone. Credits: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

March 16, 2023

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is expected to significantly expand our understanding of habitable exoplanets by providing unprecedented observations of their atmospheres and other properties. Here are some of the ways in which the JWST will advance our knowledge in this field:

Overall, the JWST is expected to revolutionize our understanding of habitable exoplanets, providing scientists with unprecedented insights into the properties and potential for life of these distant worlds.

What are Habitable Exoplanets?

Habitable exoplanets are planets that have the potential to support life as we know it. They are planets that orbit within the habitable zone of their star, which is the range of distances from the star where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface. This is important because liquid water is essential for life as we know it.

What Makes a Planet Habitable?

In addition to being in the habitable zone, there are several other factors that can make a planet habitable. These include:

How are we Searching for Habitable Exoplanets?

There are several methods that astronomers use to search for habitable exoplanets. One of the most common methods is the transit method, which involves observing a star and looking for dips in brightness as a planet passes in front of it. By analyzing these dips in brightness, astronomers can determine the size and orbit of the planet, as well as whether it is in a habitable zone.

Another method is the radial velocity method, which involves observing the star and looking for changes in its spectral lines as a planet orbits around it. By analyzing these changes, astronomers can determine the mass and orbit of the planet.