Pack your bags! Astroboffins spot 24 'superhabitable' exoplanets better than Earth at supporting complex life

Just a short 100 or more light years away


Astrobiologists have found 24 exoplanets that, compared to Earth, may have environments better suited to complex life like that found on our world.

A team led by Dirk Schulze-Makuch, a professor at the planetary habitability and astrobiology at the Technical University Berlin, devised a checklist of requirements that an alien world must meet in order to be classed as a “superhabitable” planet, capable of supporting complex, oxygen-based lifeforms as seen here on Earth. After going through the records on 4,000 exoplanets, the team identified 24 candidates that tick the boxes, though bear in mind all of them are at least 100 light years away.

Complex life is defined as organisms that are “macroscopic and multicellular,” Schulze-Makuch, also an adjunct professor at Washington State University in the US, told The Register. ”On a superhabitable planet, we would expect this type of life in addition to microbial life as well as animal-like and plant-like life.

“It’s sometimes difficult to convey this principle of superhabitable planets because we think we have the best planet. We have a great number of complex and diverse lifeforms, and many that can survive in extreme environments. It is good to have adaptable life, but that doesn’t mean that we have the best of everything.”

exoplanet

Better than Earth? An illustration of an alien world. Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

For example, Earth's G-type sun will only last about 10 billion years, but K-type main-sequence stars are smaller and dimmer and can last up to 70 billion years. Schulze-Makuch said an exoplanet orbiting one of these stars will have more time for life to evolve, improve, thrive, and survive than here on Earth.

Size also matters. Planets that are larger and heavier will have more habitable land, and stronger gravity to retain an atmosphere. A higher average surface temperature would also lead to a warmer humid climate that supports higher levels of biodiversity, according to the team's paper, published in the journal Astrobiology, which details these superhabitable planets.

exoplanet

Boffins spot Earth-size planet most likeliest yet to harbor alien life

READ MORE

Superhabitable planets also share many properties with Earth, including having an atmosphere containing oxygen, land covered in water, plate tectonics, a relatively large moon, and a protective magnetic field to shield it from harmful solar radiation.

There are no exoplanets that have every single box ticked on the checklist, however. Schulze-Makuch told El Reg the best option is exoplanet KOI 5554.01. Located 701 light-years away, it’s estimated to be 6.5 billion years old (give or take a couple of billion), up to 1.29 times larger than Earth, and with a moderate average surface temperature of 26.17 degrees Celsius.

“With the next space telescopes coming up, we will get more information, so it is important to select some targets,” said Schulze-Makuch in a statement. “We have to focus on certain planets that have the most promising conditions for complex life. However, we have to be careful to not get stuck looking for a second Earth because there could be planets that might be more suitable for life than ours.” ®


Other stories you might like

  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading
  • Cloud security unicorn cuts 20% of staff after raising $1.3b
    Time to play blame bingo: Markets? Profits? Too much growth? Russia? Space aliens?

    Cloud security company Lacework has laid off 20 percent of its employees, just months after two record-breaking funding rounds pushed its valuation to $8.3 billion.

    A spokesperson wouldn't confirm the total number of employees affected, though told The Register that the "widely speculated number on Twitter is a significant overestimate."

    The company, as of March, counted more than 1,000 employees, which would push the jobs lost above 200. And the widely reported number on Twitter is about 300 employees. The biz, based in Silicon Valley, was founded in 2015.

    Continue reading
  • Talos names eight deadly sins in widely used industrial software
    Entire swaths of gear relies on vulnerability-laden Open Automation Software (OAS)

    A researcher at Cisco's Talos threat intelligence team found eight vulnerabilities in the Open Automation Software (OAS) platform that, if exploited, could enable a bad actor to access a device and run code on a targeted system.

    The OAS platform is widely used by a range of industrial enterprises, essentially facilitating the transfer of data within an IT environment between hardware and software and playing a central role in organizations' industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) efforts. It touches a range of devices, including PLCs and OPCs and IoT devices, as well as custom applications and APIs, databases and edge systems.

    Companies like Volvo, General Dynamics, JBT Aerotech and wind-turbine maker AES are among the users of the OAS platform.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022