When we think of a planet in the universe ideally suited for life, we naturally think of the Earth. Currently, Earth is the only planet known to sustain life. A new study has identified 24 planets outside of our solar system that could potentially have conditions more suitable to life than the Earth. The study, led by scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch from Washington State University, found that some exoplanets may orbit stars more ideal for life than our own.
The study details so-called “superhabitable” planets, some of which are older, a little larger, slightly warmer, and possibly wetter than the earth. Researchers say that life on these planets could thrive better than life on Earth thanks to the planet circling its host star more slowly and having a star with a longer lifespan than the Sun. the top 24 contenders for superhabitable planets are all more than 100 light-years away.
One goal of the study is to help determine planets that are ideal for future observations using instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope, among others. Schulze-Makuch says that the next generation of space telescopes will give more information on distant planets, and it’s important to select targets now.
Scientists want to select targets that have the most ideal conditions to support complex life. The scientists also say that we have to be careful not to get stuck looking for a second Earth when there could be planets more suitable for life than our own. Among the interesting stars for potentially hosting planets with life are K stars that have the advantage of long life spans of 20 to 70 billion years.
K dwarf stars are somewhat cooler, less massive, and less luminous than the Sun. The benefit of the long lifespan of such stars is allowing orbiting planets to be older to give life more time to advance to the complexity found on Earth.