I stumbled across this rather interesting little article the other day, about the idea that planets which aren’t “Earth-like” by the definitions of planet hunters may not necessarily be bad places for life. My first thought was that I’m glad people are starting to take the idea seriously.
While the name “superhabitable” planets may seem slightly ridiculous (astronomers, it seems, like to arbitrarily attach prefixes like “super” and “dark” to things), the concept is a good one. After all, from our solitary little world here in the suburbs of the Milky Way, who are we to say what kind of planets may be inhabited. Perhaps even gas giants may be a cradle for living things in some hitherto unimagined form.
In fact, the study which has recently been published (headed by McMaster University’s René Heller), goes so far as to suggest that other types of planet may actually be better for life to exist. When you think about it, that’s not such a crazy idea. After all, under the criteria which planet hunters use, our solar system contains two “Earth-like” planets. Though on closer inspection, Venus is, shall we say, not exactly like Earth. Perhaps the so-called “mini-neptunes” (recently proposed as a new class of planet may be a better place to look. Worlds which may be a bit more like little KOI-314c.
Anyway, the paper was published in the journal Astrobiology a few days ago, and with a subject like this, it’s an instant addition to my reading list. Also, because I haven’t written one for a while, perhaps I might even review this paper properly. It’s good to get back in practice.
Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech