The Search for Life in the Universe

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Astrobiology refers to the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. This encompasses extraterrestrial life and life on Earth. Astrobiology is an ...
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The Solar System

Pp. 51-81 (31)

Arnold Hanslmeier


The Solar System can be regarded as a prototype for a planetary system. Many planetary systems have been detected over the last two decades, however, we will not be able in the near future to explore these exoplanets with such precision as the planets in our Solar System. From the details of our Solar System we can extrapolate to the exoplanets and the study of these systems helps us to better understand the formation of our own system. Parts of this chapter are from the book of the author [42]. We shall discuss the different classes of objects in the solar system such as the big planets, dwarf planets, asteroids and comets. First it will be outlined how we obtained the important physical parameters of the planets such as temperature, composition, mass, radius etc. from observations form the Earth. We will also discuss why Venus is such a dry planet and whether there is water on Mars. Then the objects will be discussed in more detail. Finally some interesting satellites and the rings of planets will be discussed. The main message of this chapter is that in the Solar System life could exist only on two categories of objects namely planets and some satellite of planets.


Planets; Solar System; terrestrial planets; giant planets; Galilean Satellites; Titan; Europa; Ganymede; Io; Callisto; Mercury; Venus; Earth; Mars; Jupiter; Saturn; Uranus; Neptune; Enceladus; Mars: climate change; Venus: Water loss


Institute of Physics, Univ. Graz, Austria