Jones, B. W.
Exoplanets – search methods, discoveries, and prospects for astrobiology.
International Journal of Astrobiology, 7(3-4) pp. 279–292.
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Whereas the Solar System has Mars and Europa as the best candidates for finding fossil/extant life as we know it – based on complex carbon compounds and liquid water – the 263 (non-pulsar) planetary systems around other stars as known at 15 September 2008 could between them possess many more planets where life might exist. Moreover, the number of these exoplanetary systems is growing steadily, and with this growth there is an increase in the number of planets that could bear carbon–liquid water life. In this brief review the main methods by which exoplanets are being discovered are outlined, and then the discoveries that have so far been made are presented. This is followed by an account of likely future discoveries. Habitability is then discussed, and an outline presented of how a planet could be studied from afar to determine whether it is habitable, and whether it is indeed inhabited. This review is aimed at the astrobiology community, which spans many disciplines, few of which involve exoplanets. It is therefore at a basic level and concentrates on the major topics.
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