Beyond the principle of plentitude: a review of terrestrial planet habitability. Academic Article uri icon


  • We review recent work that directly or indirectly addresses the habitability of terrestrial (rocky) planets like the Earth. Habitability has been traditionally defined in terms of an orbital semimajor axis within a range known as the habitable zone, but it is also well known that the habitability of Earth is due to many other astrophysical, geological, and geochemical factors. We focus this review on (1) recent refinements to habitable zone calculations; (2) the formation and orbital stability of terrestrial planets; (3) the tempo and mode of geologic activity (e.g., plate tectonics) on terrestrial planets; (4) the delivery of water to terrestrial planets in the habitable zone; and (5) the acquisition and loss of terrestrial planet carbon and nitrogen, elements that constitute important atmospheric gases responsible for habitable conditions on Earth's surface as well as being the building blocks of the biosphere itself. Finally, we consider recent work on evidence for the earliest habitable environments and the appearance of life itself on our planet. Such evidence provides us with an important, if nominal, calibration point for our search for other habitable worlds.

published proceedings

  • Astrobiology

author list (cited authors)

  • Gaidos, E., Deschenes, B., Dundon, L., Fagan, K., Menviel-Hessler, L., Moskovitz, N., & Workman, M.

citation count

  • 44

complete list of authors

  • Gaidos, E||Deschenes, B||Dundon, L||Fagan, K||Menviel-Hessler, L||Moskovitz, N||Workman, M

publication date

  • April 2005