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To sort out the biological intricacies of Earth-like planets, astronomers have developed computer models that examine how ultraviolet radiation from other planets' nearby suns may affect those worlds, according to new research published June 10 in Astrophysical Journal.

"Depending on the intensity, ultraviolet radiation can be both useful and harmful to the origin of life," says Lisa Kaltenegger, Cornell associate professor of astronomy and the director of Cornell's new Carl Sagan Institute: Pale Blue Dot and Beyond. "We are trying to ascertain how much radiation other young Earths would get and what that could mean for the possibility for life."

The study, "UV Surface Environment of Earth-like Planets Orbiting FGKM Stars Through Geological Evolution," was prepared by lead author Sarah Rugheimer, Cornell research associate at the Carl Sagan Institute; Antigona Segura of Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; Dimitar Sasselov of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; and Kaltenegger.

"We're going to see all kinds of planets in all kinds of stages in their own evolution, but we wanted to take four kinds of epochs from Earth history, as samples of what we might see," said Rugheimer. "With the next generation of missions, we expect to observe a wide diversity of extrasolar planets."

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