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Super-Earths and Life? - a cross-disciplinary puzzle

By Lisa Kaltenegger, Harvard University

Astronomy Spring Colloquia May 25, 2010 Tuesday, 4:30pm-5:30pm, Peyton Hall auditorium:

The first Super-Earths have recently been discovered. We present models
for rocky Super-Earth atmospheres and derive detectable features in
transmission and emergent spectra for future space- and ground based
telescopes like the James Webb Space Telescope. As a specific example,
we show under which condition the recently discovered M-dwarf planet
Gl581 d is potentially habitable.

This talk will focus on the cross-disciplinary connection between
planetary science, biology and astronomy and explore its remotely
detectable features in a planets atmosphere. The observational features
of the planet are used to derive observable quantities to examine if our
concept of habitability is correct.

While many uncertainties remain (as will be discussed), our calculations
attest to the potential for the habitability of, and detection of
biosignatures on super-Earths, and rocky planets around very low mass
stars and their detectability in the near future.