Earlier in January, astronomers discovered a star system with at least five Earth-sized planets. The discovery rekindled the conversation about the existence of habitable, Earth-like worlds outside our solar system, and possibly, life.
In order to make a planet habitable for us, or life similar to us, the planet has to be situated in the “goldilocks zone,” a distance away from its star that is far enough away not to boil away water, and close enough not to freeze it solid. Over the last few years, scientists have found over 20 extrasolar planets that fit that description.
That got us thinking… is home planet really our ideal environment, or could there be planets out there that are even better or healthier for us, humans, to live on?
Earth is, of course, located in the goldilocks zone, but it is actually pretty close to the inner edge, scraping by on the edge of uninhabitability. An ideal planet for us would be situated in the middle of the goldilocks zone.
Since Earth is on the inner edge of the goldilocks zone, the side facing the sun it is constantly baked in radiation. Our atmosphere does a lot to offset the temperature differences, but realistically, Earth’s temperatures differences are pretty extreme. Even though we are highly-adaptable species who can live in tropical heat as well as frozen tundra, only a fraction of Earth is comfortable for us to live in. Imagine a planet with warm, 70s temperatures all around the globe, with only mild variations in seasons… it may be possible on a planet with a weaker sun, and more in the middle of the goldilocks zone. Also, a planet without big landmasses like our continents would be less likely to develop desert regions.
The aforementioned theoretical planet without extreme temperature differences would also not have the extreme weather we get here on Earth. A planet without hurricanes, tornadoes or severe thunderstorms would be much more ideal for us.
Most of us can’t spend a full day outside in the sun without getting burned here, on Earth. A weaker sun, and/or being away from the inner edge of the goldilocks zone would solve that problem for us
Our current periodic table is incomplete. There are many heavy elements that are yet to be discovered, or have not been observed in nature because we are limited by what we can mine or discover here on Earth. Imagine a planet with a wide array of new elements for us to discover, and what it will do for our science, medicine and overall well-being as a species!
Although a more ideal planet than Earth is theoretically possible, currently, there is no way to know for sure. It would take 200,000 years for us to get to the closest of those potentially habitable worlds with current propulsion technologies, so for the near future, Earth is the ideal, and only place for us.