We don’t really understand habitable zones

In the hunt for life outside the Earth, astronomers are keen to spot exoplanets in the “habitable zone,” — the region around a star where liquid water can exist on a planet. 

While most research about the habitable zone has focused on a star’s brightness (as temperature dictates whether water on a planet could be liquid, ice or gas), new research is showing that this is an extremely simplified and naive picture. The true test for whether or not a planet could host life may, in fact, rest in the noblest of gases: nitrogen.

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