From astrobites: “Blown away by Black Holes: Losing Planetary Atmospheres to Quasar Radiation”

Astrobites bloc


Title: Evaporation of Planetary Atmospheres due to XUV Illumination by Quasars
Authors: John C. Forbes, Abraham Loeb
First Author’s Institution: Institute for Theory and Computation, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Status: Submitted to MNRAS [open access]

Figure 1: An artist’s gorgeous impression of a quasar. Image credit to NASA/ESA/G. Bacon, STScl.

Earth-like life is pickier than Goldilocks

Life on Earth: beautiful, wondrous, and utterly at the mercy of the environment. There are a number of crucial qualities – liquid water, breathable air, temperate sunlight – that we Earth-born life forms need to survive. Without them, we’d have a truly frightening apocalypse on our hands (worse than any other apocalypse you might have come across).

In light of that, astronomers searching for life (as we know it) beyond Earth look for exoplanets that have these same crucial qualities. But for an exoplanet to house Earth-like life, there’s quite a lot that needs to be “just right”. The exoplanet must be in some sort of habitable zone, for example, where liquid water can exist, and the exoplanet must also have some form of hospitable atmosphere. And just as things can go “just right” to cultivate these qualities, other things can go very wrong.

The authors of today’s astrobite look into one of these characteristics that could go very wrong: the loss of a planet’s atmosphere. They explore how quasars can rather literally blow these atmospheres away.

See the full article here .

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