Habitable Planets May Not Look Exactly Like The Earth

May 6, 2014 2:25 PM

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When I was a kid we had Star Trek reruns showing twice a day. These were, without a doubt, the most important hours of my day. One thing that came from watching the Enterprise zoom around the galaxy so much was the recognition that there were a whole lot of so-called "class M planets" out there. Back in the day it was never clear (to me) exactly what a "class M planet" was exactly but, in general, it seemed to be a place you could beam down to and not explode, be crushed or breath poisoned air.

With the gold rush of exo-planet discoveries these days, astronomers are learning to think deeply and broadly about habitable planets in a way that far outstrips the old Star Trek. It's now understood that almost every star in the galaxy will host planets and perhaps 20 percent of those planets will...

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