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Habitabiliy and Life in the Universe

Is there life on other planets? First, we have to identify the most promising planets for life to evolve. Life needs liquid water, which requires a certain temperature range. The surface temperature of a planet depends on the distance to its star, but also on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Important for the Earth to maintain habitable conditions is the long-term carbonate silicate cycle, by which carbon is recycled between Earth's atmosphere, crust, and interior. Understanding this cycle for different types of exoplanets will help us to predict their habitability!

Related publication: Höning et al. 2019, Astronomy & Astrophysics

Life, Feedback Loops, and the Interior Evolution of the Earth

The Earth's system is complex machinery in which life plays a crucial role. Water in the Earth's mantle reduces its viscosity, which speeds up the oceanic plates. This affects the rate of volcanism and subduction, and thereby the flux of water between the mantle and the oceans. Life enters the system as it affects weathering and erosion rates of rocks, and thereby indirectly the subduction flux of sediments into the interior. How would the Earth's system work without life?

Related publication: Höning et al. 2016, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors

Continental Growth and Implications for Exoplanets

Most of the Earth's continental volume was already present billions of years ago. Today, there is a continuous equilibrium between continental production and erosion. How can we explain that this equilibrium did not change much over the past billion years despite the cooling of Earth's mantle? What does this mean for the continental cycle on exoplanets?

Related publication: Höning et al. 2019, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors