By now most people know that the Earth’s climate is just one small facet of all possible planetary climates. Most of the other climates along the spectrum of all possible climates are not what we – or life as we know it – would survive. But if Earth’s climate has been a long continuum of change, so too are those of other planets. And the study of those alien pasts might offer insight into our own past and future.
Ancient alien climates were the topic of the Comparative Climatology Symposium held at NASA Headquarters on May 7. In New Approaches to Climate Research, speakers discussed collaboration across the fields of climatology and astrobiology, suggesting that our understanding of our own climate could be aided through the study of the climates of Mars, Venus, Titan and perhaps exoplanets.
From Space.com: “Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters, said that when it comes to understanding where a planet needs to reside in its solar system to be habitable — the so-called Goldilocks Zone where the temperature is just right for water to be liquid rather than ice or gas — he commented that “the approach [to the habitable zone] is very Goldilocks in that it’s almost a fairy tale.””
As David Grinspoon, current curator of Astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science said, “it may be that conditions for life’s origin aren’t rare, but the hard part is the persistence of habitable conditions.”
In the past, we’ve separated our scientific disciplines along lines that seem like reasonable boundaries. But the study of what makes planetary climates is evolving like the climates themselves tend to do.
In this case, an interdisciplinary approach can only be a positive development in the quest to make our own habitable conditions persist for as long as possible.
For the next couple of days, if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of what might be our climate past (or future) with a trio of planets visible in a rare compact planetary trio of Mercury, Venus and Saturn.
Space.com article – Alien Planets Could Shed Light on Earth’s Climate Future by Leslie Mullen
EarthSky.org – Three planets close in west last week of May