Tour the distant planets most likely (so far) to support life

Seven of a multitude of exoplanets whose existence have been confirmed in recent years stand out as the most likely to host liquid water and, perhaps, life. Take an intergalactic tour in search of E.T. with Crave's Eric Mack.

gliese581dbydarink.jpg
Behold an artist's conception of Gliese 581d, just 20 light years away and potentially habitable. DarinK/deviantART/CC License

Recently we found E.T. right here on Earth in a New Mexico landfill, but the search for alien life is a little more complicated than how it's portrayed in that old 8-bit Atari game.

Fortunately, thanks to some huge leaps in our ability to search the cosmos in the past decade or so, astronomers have begun to compile a growing catalog of confirmed exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. A few dozen of these planets even exist in the habitable zone where liquid water could exist.

The delightfully exoplanet-obsessed Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo maintains one such catalog and has plucked out seven distant exoplanets as the most likely to both host liquid water and have a rocky composition, two key elements that could help foster biological life.

Take a cosmic road trip to all seven distant potential Earth cousins in the gallery below, and let us know in the comments which one you'd most like to see your great-to-the-nth-power grandchildren visit.

About the author

Crave freelancer Eric Mack is a writer, radio producer, and podcaster based in Taos, N.M., but he lives in Google+. He's also managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org and has written e-books on both Alaska and Android. E-mail Eric.

 

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