UW Today

‘Mirage Earth’ exoplanets may have burned away chances for life

Planets orbiting close to low-mass stars are prime targets in the search for life. But new research led by an astronomy graduate student at the UW indicates some such planets may have long since lost their chance at hosting life because of intense heat during their formative years.

Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah’s Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps.

‘Dimer molecules’ aid study of exoplanet pressure, hunt for life

UW astronomers have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule. And if there is life out in space, it may one day be revealed by this method.

Study: Greenhouse gas might have warmed early Mars enough to allow liquid water

The mystery of how the surface of Mars, long dead and dry, could have flowed with water billions of years ago may have been solved by research that included a University of Washington astronomer.

Planetary ‘runaway greenhouse’ more easily triggered, research shows

It might be easier than previously thought for a planet to overheat into the uninhabitable “runaway greenhouse” stage, according to new research.

A warmer planetary haven around cool stars, as ice warms rather than cools

In a bit of cosmic irony, planets orbiting cooler stars may be more likely to remain ice-free than planets around hotter stars. This is due to the interaction of a star’s light with ice and snow on the planet’s surface.

Astronomer studies far-off worlds through ‘characterization by proxy’

A UW astronomer is using Earth’s interstellar neighbors to learn the nature of certain stars too far away to be directly measured or observed, and the planets they may host.

Can life emerge on planets around cooling stars?

UW astronomers find that planets orbiting white and brown dwarfs are unlikely to be good candidates for sustaining life.