Exoplanet Habitability

With numerous terrestrial-like exoplanets discovered from the Kepler mission, ranging from ~0.5 to ~2 Earth Radius, it is natural to consider how many of these bodies  may have an atmosphere that allows for stable liquid water at the surface. Although many of these planets may fall within the classically defined habitable zone of their host stars, many do not and distance from the host star alone is likely an insufficient metric to assess the stability of liquid water (and habitability potential). The habitability of a planetary body is significantly influenced by both atmospheric and interior processes, such as mantle convection, the tectonic mode, geochemical evolution, core dynamos, melting and outgassing, atmospheric development, chemistry, and the development of a water cycle.

As planetary atmospheric development is inherently linked with interior evolution, it is necessary to understand the thermal and chemical evolution of a rocky planetary body to understand how its atmosphere evolves. For this work, we couple planetary interior evolution models with equilibrium atmospheric models to understand the linked behavior and evolution of a planet, its atmosphere, and surface temperatures. We explore differing tectonic states including Earth-like mobile lids, Mars-like stagnant lids, and heat-pipe planets. This allows us to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of processes that are likely to foster the presence of stable liquid water at the surface of a planet.

Collaborators:  This work is a collaboration with Matthew Weller, Alexandria Johnson, Dan Ibarra, and Tyler Kukla.