Some exoplanets may be even more habitable than Earth

Some rocky exoplanets may be warmer and more geologically active than Earth—and perhaps even more habitable. Credit: J. Pinfield / RoPACS / University of Hertfordshire

In the search for life elsewhere, the Earth is typically used as a standard against which other planets, or moons, are compared. Since our planet is teeming with seemingly countless life forms, it must represent the near-perfect, most ideal conditions for life to flourish, right? It would seem so, but new research is suggesting that may not be the case, that there may be other exoplanets in other solar systems which are even better suited for life than Earth is.

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Planets orbiting dying stars are probably dead too

Planets orbiting white dwarf or brown dwarf stars may not be good candidates for life, a new study shows. Credit: NASA / S. Charbinet

If you are searching for other inhabited worlds, almost any kind of star may do according to current findings, except perhaps for white dwarfs. As it turns out, planets orbiting these dying stars, as well as brown dwarfs, are probably very poor candidates for life.

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Kepler gets mission extension in its search for Earth-like worlds

Timeline depicting major milestones during the Kepler mission so far.
Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / W. Stenzel

To say that the Kepler mission has been successful so far would be a major understatement – with 2,321 exoplanet candidates and 105 confirmed exoplanets to date, Kepler has revolutioned our understanding of planetary systems around other stars. Not all that long ago it wasn’t even known if any planets existed outside our solar system, and now they are being discovered on a regular basis.

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Free-floating ‘rogue’ planet discovered drifting in space

Artist’s conception of CFBDSIR2149. Credit: European Southern Observatory

Exoplanets, planets which orbit other stars, are now being discovered by the thousands. Current estimates now say that there are likely millions of them in our galaxy alone. But there is another type of planet which had been hypothesied to exist – rogue planets, drifting through space alone, not gravitationally bound to any stars. It’s a wild idea, and now the first evidence for just such free-style planets is being found by astronomers.

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New potentially habitable ‘super-Earth’ discovered orbiting nearby star

Artist’s conception of HD 40307g, if it has liquid water on the surface.
Credit: J. Pinfield / RoPACS / University of Hertfordshire

A new “super-Earth” has been discovered and added to the growing list of potentially habitable exoplanets, it was announced yesterday. The planet, HD 40307g, orbits the star HD 40307, which is about three-quarters the size of the Sun and 42 light years away, in the constellation Pictor.

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