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Can Terrestrial Planets Exist in the Habitable Zones of
Known Exoplanetary Systems?


Barrie W. Jones and P. Nick Sleep


Copyright, Paul Shuch



Most of the known exoplanetary systems have giant planets closer to the star than the inner boundary of the habitable zone - the range of distances from the star within which water at the surface of a terrestrial planet would be in the liquid phase.  Rho Coronae Borealis is one such system.  The 47 Ursae Majoris system is unusual in having the known giant planet beyond the habitable zone, which is the case for the giant planets in the Solar System.  At present the detection of terrestrial planets in these systems is beyond our capability.  It is therefore of interest to see whether such planets could exist in them, and in particular whether they could survive in the habitable zones for times long enough to allow the emergence of intelligent species.  We have employed numerical integration to investigate this question for the Rho Coronae Borealis and 47 Ursae Majoris systems.  We have found that, in both cases, over much of the parameter space defining the launch orbit of a terrestrial planet, the terrestrial planet remains in the habitable zone for billions of years.  Therefore, the occurrence of intelligent species on terrestrial planets in these systems is not ruled out.


exoplanetary systems; habitable zones; orbital stability, extraterrestrial intelligence

  • The paper (author Web site)


Principal Author Biography

Barrie W Jones is head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at The Open University in the UK.  He has long had an interest in the question of whether there is extraterrestrial life, and he has incorporated this subject into Open University courses and into lectures and articles for a variety of audiences.  In recent years he has become involved in research in this area, through studies of whether terrestrial planets could exist in the habitable zones of known exoplanetary systems.  He has published over 100 articles and research papers, and he has authored three books, the most recent, 'Discovering the Solar System', being a textbook for science-based undergraduates.

Principal Author Affiliation

The Open University
Astronomy Group
Milton Keynes MK7 6AA
Phone: 44 1908 653229
Fax: 44 1908 654192
Email: mailto:b.w.jones@open.ac.uk

Both authors are with the Open University


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