Vacationing on a Desert Planet

In an interesting conclusion, the habitable zone of a star is three times as large when a desert planet is assumed, compared to an aqua (Earth-like). So Frank Herbert was right when he portrayed the famous Sci-Fi planet of Dune.

The meat of the reasoning behind this can be found in the fifth paragraph of the original article:

The scientists reasoned the scarcity of water on a land planet might actually help it have a larger habitable zone around its star. For one thing, a land planet has less water for snow and ice that can reflect sunlight back into space. As such, it can in principle absorb more heat to better resist global freezing, enlarging the cold outer limits of its habitable zone. In addition, the dearth of water in a land planet’s dry atmosphere makes it trap less heat than an aqua planet, helping it avoid a runaway greenhouse effect and expanding the inner, hotter edge of its habitable zone. Also, the less water there is in the atmosphere, the less there is for ultraviolet radiation to break up into hydrogen and oxygen.

While this hardly sounds like a vacation planet compared to the current blue globe that humans inhabit, it does give hope to the possibility of turning Mars into a habitable planet in the far future, with a little adventurous terraforming. Although based on this study, perhaps we should keep the water away from Mars, and just work on rebuilding the atmosphere into a breathable one.

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