Scientists already know about a vast number of exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system: telescopes have helped us catalogue thousands already, with many more to come. But it is far more difficult to know what conditions might be like on those planets, since they are so different.
In order to narrow that down, the researchers behind the new study combined a variety of data to understand how habitable planets around M dwarf stars – which make up 70 per cent of those in our galaxy – might be. Planets around M dwarf stars are thought to be the most likely place for us to find alien life, because they are so common and therefore easier to find.
The study helped them redefine our understanding of whether a planet could be habitable, adding new questions to be asked of planets by taking into account the radiation coming from a star and how the planets rotate.