We humans, and all other living organisms on Earth have been ripped off. Our planet is a slum, compared with other planets that may exist.
According to some astronomers, superhabitable worlds may exist that are friendlier to life than our own. And in fact, Earth itself may only be marginally habitable. This makes sense. It explains to me why I’ve barely been able to get by in life.
Face it, we live in a slum. It doesn’t matter how rich you are, if you inhabit planet Earth then you’re in the barrios, the tenements, the other side of the tracks.
We’ve often been taught that the Earth is in a “Goldilocks Zone,” perfectly situated for the formation and sustenance of life. But now some astrobiologists are questioning this conventional wisdom, and theorizing that things could really be a whole lot better.
One of the primo features that may be found in more luxurious planets is mass. The best planets are two to three times more massive than Earth. They have more surface area, and thus more room for life forms to grow. They also have more plate tectonics, which helps to recycle critical material from their interior to their surface. In other words, they can keep the shit stirring and the life purring.
Another select feature is stable temperature. Our wobbly Earth has experienced ice ages that have caused mass extinctions. But luxury planets with better climate control don’t have that problem. And speaking of the weather, some planets may be just a tad warmer than ours. They don’t skimp on the thermostat like the building supervisor does on our slum planet. And so they may have larger tropical zones with greater biodiversity.
And some planets could have more oxygen. Breathing room is always a luxury. More oxygen increases the maximum possible body size. It also allows for more massive atmospheres, with greater shielding to damaging high-energy radiation from space. So there would be less cancer, and less need for sunscreen on these planets. But given our large size, we’d have to frequent the Big and Tall store, for our clothes.
Location, location, location. Recent research suggests that our slum Earth is scraping the very inner edge of the sun’s habitable zone. We’re hanging onto life by a tiny, tenuous thread. But the luckier planets are located smack dab in the middle of their star’s habitable zone. What a nice sense of security inhabitants of these planets can enjoy, compared with us.
And speaking of stars, we could do better than ol’ Sol. The best stars to revolve around are called orange dwarfs. Sadly, we’re stuck with a yellow dwarf. Orange dwarves are a bit cooler and smaller than yellows. This may provide more favorable ultraviolet environments. Orange’s also have longer lifetimes, giving the worlds that revolve around them more time to develop life and accrue biodiversity. Look at it this way: Instead of enjoying a sweet orange, we’re sucking on a bitter lemon.
Keep this rule in mind, the next time you go planet shopping: The most habitable planets tend to orbit orange dwarves, and tend to be slightly older and two to three times more massive than Earth. One location where you might want to shop is Alpha Centauri B. It’s the closest stellar system to the sun, being only 4.37 light years away, so you don’t have far to travel. It’s an orange dwarf—hooray! And it may host a planet at least the size of Earth, in its habitable zone.
But you could also check out Europa, which is one of the moons of Jupiter. Europa is in our own solar system, and much closer than Alpha Centauri B. But it is far outside the sun’s habitable zone. Yet research indicates that terrestrial bodies may not need to be within a habitable zone to foster life, due to a phenomenon called tidal heating. The tidal force of Jupiter’s gravitational pull on Europa is roughly 1,000 times that of our own moon’s tidal force upon Earth. This force flexes the surface of Europa, generating enough heat to possibly support life.
Ah, silly me. You can’t really choose your planet. You and I are stuck with slum Earth. But sometimes late at night when your acid reflux keeps you from sleeping, you can always go outside and gaze at the stars. When you do, think about orange dwarves, and imagine super-sized planets. And eat your heart out dreaming of a better world.