Evolution of a Habitable Planet

James F. Kasting, David Catling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

406 Citations (SciVal)


Giant planets have now been discovered around other stars, and it is only a matter of time until Earth-sized planets are detected. Whether any of these planets are suitable for life depends on their volatile abundances, especially water, and on their climates. Only planets within the liquid-water habitable zone (HZ) can support life on their surfaces and, thus, can be analyzed remotely to determine whether they are inhabited. Fortunately, current models predict that HZs are relatively wide around main-sequence stars not too different from our sun. This conclusion is based on studies of how our own planet has evolved over time. Earth's climate has remained conducive to life for the past 3.5 billion years or more, despite a large increase in solar luminosity, probably because of previous higher concentrations of CO 2 and/or CH4. Both these gases are involved in negative feedback loops that help to stabilize the climate. In addition to these topics, we also briefly discuss the rise of atmospheric O2 and O 3, along with their possible significance as indicators of life on other planets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-463
Number of pages35
JournalAnnual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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