How Does a Star’s Size and Luminosity Affect its Habitable Zone?

Question:  We are fortunate that the Earth orbits our Sun in the “Habitable Zone” where it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold and liquid water can exist giving life a chance to evolve. As stars vary so much in size and luminosity how do astronomers work out where the “Habitable Zone” is around any given star?  – David

Answer:  The definition as to what exactly is a “habitable zone” for planets orbiting a star is rather complex, involving many factors, including the type of star, size of the planet, and even the location of the planetary system in a galaxy.  A nice explanation of the constraints placed on the physical properties of a star which hosts potentially habitable planets can be found on the Penn State Astronomy Department e-Education description of the habitable zone.  Generally speaking, the larger or hotter a star is, the farther away its habitable zone will be (and vice-versa).

Jeff Mangum

This entry was posted in Exoplanets and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>