- Kelly Shen ’22
So far, Earth is still the only planet we know of that supports life, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. A new study shows that there were 24 potential planets that could possibly support life, and they aren’t far from our planet. They may have conditions more suited to host life. They could also be slightly older than the Earth (4.5 billion years old), “a little larger, slightly warmer and possibly wetter”, and orbit stars with longer lifespans than the sun, the researchers found.
The major criteria the researchers looked at to determine the exoplanets are as follows:
- Reside within the habitable zone — defined as the area around a star where a planet could support liquid water.
- Have cooler G stars (the sun is a G star) or K dwarf stars.
- Is up to 10% larger than Earth.
- Could have a surface temperature of approximately 5 degrees Celsius greater than Earth.
The 24 exoplanets are more than 100 light-years from Earth, but could be identified by future space telescopes, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the researchers added. (A light-year, which measures distance in space, is approximately 6 trillion miles.)
Among the 24 exoplanets, none of them meet all of the criteria to be “superhabitable,” but one of them has four of the characteristics, signaling it may indeed be more suited for life than Earth.
Overall, more than 4,500 exoplanets have been discovered by NASA in total, approximately 50 of which were believed to potentially be habitable as of September 2018. They have the right size and the right orbit of their star to support surface water and, at least theoretically, to support life.
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