Scientists recently discovered what the media is calling a “super-Earth” — a planet which may be able to house liquid water and has properties similar to earth’s own. Before you get ready to buy real estate, you should hear some other aspects of this “super-Earth” which may not be so cozy . . . or even habitable. The following was sent to us by astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, whose work has investigated the requirements for habitability in the universe:
You are right about the host star being an M dwarf posing problems for habitability. The smallest planet’s eccentricity is comparable to that of Mercury, so it is probably locked into a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance. So, the planet will experience large temperature variations over the course of its orbit. What’s more, because its rotation is slower, it should have a weaker magnetic field and be subject to enhanced solar wind stripping of its atmosphere. Finally, the fact that it has a mass at least 5x Earth’s means that it will have a high surface gravity and less surface relief than the Earth — meaning no dry land.
Perhaps a summer yacht club might be interested?