24/7 Space News
Carbon Monoxide Dynamics Offer New Insights into Exoplanet Habitability
The presence of a CO runaway gap can help in the identification of Earth-like planets.
Carbon Monoxide Dynamics Offer New Insights into Exoplanet Habitability
by Riko Seibo
Tokyo, Japan (SPX) Feb 08, 2024

In the ongoing quest to discover habitable worlds beyond our solar system, a groundbreaking study spearheaded by Associate Professor Kazumi Ozaki from Tokyo Institute of Technology and Associate Researcher Yasuto Watanabe from The University of Tokyo introduces a novel criterion for identifying potentially habitable exoplanets.

Published in the Astrophysical Journal on January 10, 2024, their research illuminates the significance of carbon monoxide (CO) in the atmospheric conditions of Earth-like planets, potentially reshaping our approach to finding life-sustaining worlds among the stars.

The habitability of an exoplanet is traditionally gauged by its ability to sustain liquid water, necessitating a delicate balance of temperature and atmospheric conditions within the so-called habitable zone of its star. NASA's Kepler telescope has been instrumental in this search, revealing that a significant fraction of visible stars could host Earth-sized planets in such conducive orbits.

Yet, the presence of liquid water is not the sole criterion for habitability. On Earth, carbon compounds like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO) have been pivotal in crafting a climate that can support life. These compounds, through their intricate roles in the climate system and biogeochemical cycles, offer a blueprint for assessing the habitability of other worlds.

Ozaki and Watanabe's study delves into the atmospheric modeling of Earth-like planets circling sun-like stars, focusing on the conditions that could foster a CO-rich environment. This state, termed CO runaway, could have been prevalent in the early atmospheres of planets, laying a favorable groundwork for the emergence of life.

"The possibility of CO runaway is critical in resolving the fundamental problem regarding the origin of life on Earth because various organic compounds suitable for the prebiotic chemistry are more likely to form in a CO-rich atmosphere than in a CO2-rich atmosphere," Dr. Ozaki elucidates.

The research models the CO cycle, encompassing its production, transport mechanisms, and removal processes. Primary CO sources include the photolysis of CO2, atmospheric photochemical reactions, volcanic emissions, and the hydrothermal breakdown of formaldehyde (H2CO) in oceans. The primary removal mechanism involves reactions with hydroxyl (OH) radicals, with surface deposition playing a minor role.

A key finding is that CO runaway occurs when CO production outpaces its removal by OH radicals, a situation that can arise from elevated CO2 levels or the presence of reducing gases from volcanic activity. The researchers identified a specific range of CO2 partial pressures and temperatures under which CO runaway is triggered, highlighting how such conditions affect atmospheric CO, CO2, and CH4 levels.

This investigation has led to the identification of a "CO-runaway gap," a distinctive feature in the phase space defined by the ratios of these gases' partial pressures. "Our results suggest that this CO-runaway gap is a general feature of Earth-like lifeless planets orbiting Sun-like stars, providing insights into the characteristics and potential habitability of exoplanets," Dr. Ozaki states. This breakthrough offers a new lens through which astronomers can evaluate the habitability of exoplanets, enriching the criteria beyond the mere presence of liquid water.

Although the journey to unravel the conditions conducive to life's emergence continues, this study marks a significant advancement. By broadening the scope of habitable conditions to include atmospheric chemistry dynamics, researchers edge closer to identifying planets that might not only be home to liquid water but also possess the chemical precursors necessary for life's inception. As we expand our search across the nearly 40 billion Earth-size planets orbiting Sun-like stars in the Milky Way, discoveries like the CO-runaway gap equip us with valuable tools to refine our quest for worlds where life might flourish.

Research Report:Relative Abundances of CO2, CO, and CH4 in Atmospheres of Earth-like Lifeless Planets

Related Links
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Direct detection of amino acids and hydrocarbons in meteorites
Munster, Germany (SPX) Feb 05, 2024
The recent study conducted by Dr. Christian Vollmer and his team, in collaboration with British colleagues, marks a significant advancement in the field of astrobiology and planetary science. By examining the Winchcombe meteorite, a rare and quickly collected celestial visitor, they have achieved a groundbreaking feat in demonstrating the presence of key nitrogen compounds, including amino acids and heterocyclic hydrocarbons, without subjecting the sample to any chemical treatment. This discovery, ... read more

Space Beach Law Lab: Shaping the Future of Space Law at Queen Mary Conference

Third NASA Enabled Private Flight to Space Station Completes Safely

Axiom 3 astronauts undock from ISS for trip back to Earth

Four astronauts splash down after Axiom private mission

SpaceX Expands Global Internet Coverage with 22 New Starlink Satellites

Dream Chaser Spaceplane Undergoes Extreme Testing at NASA's Armstrong Facility

New Satellite Launch Marks a Milestone in China's Commercial Space Sector

Following repeated delays, NASA launches new PACE Earth-observing satellite

Ripple Me This: Sols 4089-4090

Lake deposits in Idaho give scientists insight into ancient traces of life on Mars

Confirmation of ancient lake on Mars builds excitement for Perseverance rover's samples

NASA helicopter's mission ends after three years on Mars

Space Pioneer and LandSpace Lead China's Private Sector to New Heights in Space

BIT advances microbiological research on Chinese Space Station

Shenzhou 18 and 19 crews undertake intensive training for next missions

Tianzhou 6 burns up safely reentering Earth

Rocket Lab Boosts Capital with $355 Million in Convertible Senior Notes Amid Growth Plans

Signal Ocean to make $10M strategic investment in Spire Global

Terran Orbital announces agreement with Shareholder Group

Geespace achieves milestone in satellite constellation development for future mobility

MXene-coated Devices Can Guide Microwaves in Space and Lighten Payloads

New Data Prep Tool from Spatial to Streamline CAD Workflows

DLR develops mobile station for Satellite Laser Ranging

Spaceborne Computer-2 sets new benchmark for AI and ML on ISS

Migration solves exoplanet puzzle

Carbon Monoxide Dynamics Offer New Insights into Exoplanet Habitability

UC Irvine-led team unravels mysteries of planet formation and evolution in distant solar system

NASA's Hubble Finds Water Vapor in Small Exoplanet's Atmosphere

NASA invites public to dive into Juno's Spectacular Images of Io

Europa Clipper gears up with full instrument suite onboard

New images reveal what Neptune and Uranus really look like

Researchers reveal true colors of Neptune, Uranus

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.