Are There Planets Better at Supporting Life Than Earth?
There is, in this crazy world, one thing we know for sure: Our world is the world. Our planet is the planet — for creating life, for supporting life, for letting us humans and our fellow species become what we are. And so, as we take our first tentative steps from a warm, watery Earth out into the universe, we set our sights toward the worlds that look like the one we know — toward planets that are, in their way, “Earth-like.”
But: What if there are planets that are better at being Earth-like than Earth itself? What if there are worlds that are more homey than home? What if other planets are better at supporting life than our own?
It’s a possibility, actually, according to new work coming out of Ohio State — and just a little bit of cosmic conjecture. A team of astronomers and geologists at the university, using data gathered by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher spectrometer at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, made a study of eight stars that are “solar twins” to our sun — similar in factors like size, age, and composition — and measured the amounts of radioactive elements those stars contain. Combining those analyses with theories about the conditions that made Earth hospitable to life, the team has made an exciting, if preliminary, finding: that the terrestrial planets orbiting those stars could be hotter and more dynamic than Earth. Which might make them, according to the theory, more hospitable to life than Earth.