X-Ray Studies of Exoplanet Habitability #SpaceSaturday

One day, humanity might venture through interstellar space and live on other planets. Maybe. If we survive the 21st century, and if we imagine big enough. Should that happen, we’ll need habitable exoplanets. That’s where X-ray studies come into play. Here’s more from Centauri Dreams:

Working at multiple wavelengths obviously pays dividends, and with Chandra in the news because of proposed budget cuts, it’s worth noting that its observations have a role to play in the search for habitable worlds in our own stellar neighborhood. Currently the observatory is being used in conjunction with XMM-Newton in an ongoing exploration of habitability in terms of radiation. Which stars close enough to Earth for us to image planets in their habitable zones are also benign in terms of the radiation bath to which these same planets would be exposed?

High levels of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation can break chemical bonds and damage DNA in biological systems, not to mention their effect in stripping away planetary atmospheres. Thus ionizing radiation becomes a key factor in habitability in the kind of planets whose atmospheres we are first going to be able to study, those orbiting nearby M-dwarfs where the habitable zone is dauntingly close to the parent star.

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