There’s another “Earth-like” world in our galaxy. Today, Jason Dittmann at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and his colleagues announced the discovery of LHS 1140b, a rocky, temperate super-Earth orbiting a small nearby star.
Most of the worlds we have spotted so far are either blazing hellscapes or frozen tundras. But a few, like LHS 1140b, reside in the habitable zones around their stars – where they could theoretically retain liquid water – giving them the potential to host life as we know it.
Some potentially habitable planets are easier to examine than others, however. Some pass in front of their stars – called a transit – allowing us to measure their widths. This also lets us find out if they have an atmosphere, and even what makes up their atmospheres, by measuring the starlight that filters through them. Some are close enough to dream about sending a probe directly, or taking a photograph. Some seem to be too dense to have much of an atmosphere at all, or orbit stars whose volatile natures put any residents at risk of being fried.
With those criteria in mind, here are New Scientist’s five top planets beyond our solar system where we might be able to look for life: