back to article HAD IT with Planet Earth? There are 12 alien worlds left to try out

Space boffins have now identified more than 1,000 planets orbiting distant stars – with 12 of them potentially suitable for human life. There are now known to be 1,010 exoplanets, which is the name given to planets circling other suns. Around 1 per cent of these are so-called "Goldilocks planets", which are situated in the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Might be able to take a couple of weeks off that 800,000 year trip time if you send up a few fuel tanks to leave with and took a solar sail to brake with at the other end.

    1. Cliff

      800,000 years plus allow at least 2 hours for check-in.

      1. Wzrd1

        Erm, 2 years via specialized drive. 800,000 years stuck in customs.

  2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Great news!

    So we can go on wasting our own earth 'cause there are exoplanets out there waiting to be invaded by human pest?

    That makes me wonder, maybe we, i.e. life on earth, are only a bloody von Neumann probe. Humans would hardly survive a trip to one of those exoplanets but enough information might get there to pollute the environment and start a new form of deadly life. (And maybe I'm just a bit miserable today.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great news!

      Or, being non-miserable, maybe there's bugger all in the way of life out there and our pollution will serve the purpose of seeding the galaxy.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Great news!

        @JustaKOS, I agree, I don't think earth is the only place that developed life but it's not very likely that those few places we can spot from here did the same. In that sense, no harm be done. But what's the point of spreading our life beyond earth? Is it the pursuit of immortality? (This is not a question of miserable me, I seriously wonder why we would/should do that.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Evil Auditor - "what's the point"

          I'm thinking more of life in general. I find Life and what it does fascinating, and I think it would be a shame if it turned out to be extremely rare in the galaxy.

          I don't see any specific value in spreading our species throughout the galaxy, but if it incidentally spread a whole load of other species, then maybe there would be some point to it.

          Or not - I guess it depends on whether you view life as being anything special.

          1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

            @JustaKOS - "what's the point"

            Good point. I do see life - in general - as something very special. It's fragile and limited to quite a short time frame (in matters of the universe) before it all gets swallowed by the sun.

            For me, spreading life (depending on the point of view it can also be called pollution, contamination, etc.) boils down to two questions. The first, rather philosophic question is whether we have the right to spread life further than our earth (or solar system).

            As I hinted earlier, I don't mind seeding dead planets. But even if it's only some native bacteria and such living there I think we should stay far away and not risking to kill them with our own. And this brings me to the second question: how rare is life in the universe, i.e. how many of the planets in habitable zones have developed some form of life?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @Evil Auditor - @JustaKOS - Re: "what's the point"

              I'm inclined to agree with your sentiments : spreading life is a good thing, but not necessarily at the expense of what is already there.

              It seems to me that the philosophical question ("do we have the right?") only arises where life already exists. Where it does already exist, I would hope we would tread carefully, if at all.

              1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

                Re: @Evil Auditor - @JustaKOS - "what's the point"

                We could even turn that question around given the mortality of our earth: are we obliged to spread life?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  @Evil Auditor - @JustaKOS - "what's the point"

                  are we obliged to spread life?

                  I think that's close to what I feel, though perhaps 'obliged' is too strong. Certainly, spreading life elsewhere would to some extent make up for trashing it here.

                  1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

                    @JustaKOS - "what's the point"

                    ...would to some extent make up for trashing it here. Only if we avoid spreading the seed for human life, too ;-) </sarcasm>

                    But, did we really trash up here? I do believe that we should limit our impact on earth as much as possible which we certainly don't. Insofar we did and do trash it up. But in the end, nature seems to cope quite well with mankind. And what we are concerned with is not so much some extinct species. What we are really concerned with is nature's impact on us. For example, global warming/climate change or deceasing bees? Scary thing 'cause we as mankind might be in trouble. Nature will cope with it as it did in the past. With or without humanity, nature doesn't really care.

                    1. Anonymous Coward

                      @Evil Auditor - Re: @JustaKOS - "what's the point"

                      Yeah, I exaggerated a bit. We have a tendency to be careless of our impact on other species, but (so far) the world copes with us.

                      Oh, and I do think you've outed yourself as a necrophile, as have I.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Evil Auditor

              "As I hinted earlier, I don't mind seeding dead planets"

              What you do in your spare time is your concern, but it sounds like a long lonely journey, when a box of tissues and a copy of Razzle would suffice.

              1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

                Re: @Evil Auditor

                Phew, Ledswinger, I'm glad you see it this way. Before, I almost feared that I outed myself as necrophile.

          2. Haggis

            Re: @Evil Auditor - "what's the point"

            Life? Don't talk to me about life. I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed.

        2. Graham Marsden

          @Evil Auditor - Re: Great news!

          "what's the point of spreading our life beyond earth?"

          "Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans."

          - Douglas Adams - The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


          "[T]here's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes, and - all of this - all of this - was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars."

          - Commander Sinclair - Babylon 5

    2. Wzrd1

      Re: Great news!

      "So we can go on wasting our own earth 'cause there are exoplanets out there waiting to be invaded by human pest?"

      Lead the way! I'll gladly laugh at the latest and most expensive Darwin Award winner.

  3. RyokuMas


    I wonder how many of them have earth-like gravity...

    1. hplasm

      Re: Gravity

      Probably the ones with a similar size and mass...

      1. Martin Budden

        Re: Gravity

        Thanks for stating the obvious answer to a completely different question.

  4. Torben Mogensen


    All astronomers can see are the size of the planets and the approximate distance from their suns. If a planet is at a distance that allows liquid water and it is not gas-giant sized, it is deemed potentially habitable. But it takes more than potential liquid water to make a planet habitable: It takes real liquid water and an atmosphere with sufficient oxygen. The latter implies life, as free oxygen reacts with other substances so it needs to be continually renewed, and life is AFAIK the only realistic mechanism for that.

    However, discounting gas giants ignores the possibility of habitable moons orbiting these. A large fraction of known exoplanets are much more massive than Jupiter and many of these are quite close tor their stars. Probably not because they really are more common, but because such planets are easy to find because they make the stars wobble visibly. Some of these super-massive planets are in the "Goldilocks zone", where liquid water may exist. While the planets themselves are hostile to human life, they may have Earth-sized moons that could be habitable. In our own solar system, gas giants have sizeable moons, though none are near Earth size. But it is not unreasonable that larger planets may have larger moons, so moons of super-massive planets may be a better bet for habitation than planets. A single super-massive planet may even have several habitable moons.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Habitable?

      "A single super-massive planet may even have several habitable moons"

      Some may even be populated by Ewoks.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    "Goldilocks zone" is good but Earth gravity is pretty important.

    But in a sense just the fact we know have a number of how many planets (out of a number of solar systems) is a key piece of data.

    Of course if we want to visit them (even by probe) it'll have to be either amazingly cheap* (so people won't complain about the cost) or amazingly prolific, so all the eggs are not in one basket.

    *Cheap is relative. The James Webb Space Telescope is already up to about $8Bn and still rising. I'd suggest $1Bn in this context would be "cheap."

    Well done so far. Although I'd still prioritize the NEO watch over the exo planet search I think both are important if the Human race wants a long term future (Millions of years, not centuries).

  6. I think so I am?

    Its al Gravity

    Does anyone know how many Earth gravities a human can continuously withstand. Jet pilots and F1 drivers regularly experience 5-6G although not continuously.

    I'm thinking an Earth like planet with lots of Dwarf like humanoids, short but built like brick sh*t houses!!

    Or lots of Jelly fish !!

  7. Drew 11

    When the truth about Fukushima finally gets past the various filters, we'll be wishing one of those planets was a little closer.

    NRC FOIA documents make for interesting reading...

    1. Loyal Commenter

      Just a heads-up (so to speak)

      Your tin-foil hat seems to have slipped.

    2. Measurer

      A planet supporting intelligent life.....

      has yet to be found....

      Oh sorry, I've been looking through the wrong end of my telescope.

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