The Earth is in trouble. Dying crops and deadly dust storms are putting the planet under strain, leaving the human race in grave need of a new home.

In a desperate attempt to find one, a team of brave astronauts led by Joseph Cooper venture into a wormhole near Saturn, emerging light-years away on Miller’s planet – an ocean world orbiting a supermassive black hole known as Gargantua.

So goes the plot of the 2014 Hollywood epic Interstellar. But according to recent research, this idea might not be as far-fetched as it first appears.

The ability to spot other planets in space has made staggering progress in the last quarter of a century. We now know of more than 4,000 exoplanets – worlds beyond our Solar System orbiting distant stars.

For those looking for extraterrestrial life out there, conventional wisdom says that we should be looking for Earth 2.0; a planet just like ours, orbiting a safe, warm distance from a Sun-like star. Only there will we find the one thing that life needs: water.

In contrast to life-giving stars, black holes are seen as harbingers of death and destruction. They form when huge stars die and their gravitational pull is so extreme that they act as giant cosmic trap doors. Fall in and you get torn apart with no chance of escape. That hardly seems like the ideal setting for life to develop, but are we missing a trick?

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