Humanity right now is on the move to try and get humanity to the stars and beyond, and we’re always looking for Earthlike planets to live on. But that begs the question, just how many of them are there? Join us as we explore that!
Let’s start off with recent discoveries, the planet known as K2-18b is a planet that is rising through the ranks as a place where humanity might just be able to live one day. As long as other data about the planet holds up.
The reason that K2-18b is getting a lot of attention is because of a recent discovery by the Hubble Space Telescope in that there is water vapor on the planet in its atmosphere. This is very important as water on a planet is one of the first things that NASA and other space programs look for when it comes to habitable planets.
“This is the only planet right now that we know outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water, it has an atmosphere, and it has water in it—making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now,” University College London astronomer Angelos Tsiaras said during a press conference upon the discovery of the water vapor.
The problem? The planet is HUGE, and we don’t know a lot about the rest of it. But, it could be something big going forward, only time will tell.
14. TeeGarden B and C
Found just 12.5 light years from Earth around the star known as TeeGarden, two planets have been noted by scientists to be potential candidates for habitation. Known as TeeGarden B and C, they have the right size, are within the habitable zone of their star, and more:
“The two planets resemble the inner planets of our solar system,” explains lead author Mathias Zechmeister of the Institute for Astrophysics at the University of Göttingen. “They are only slightly heavier than Earth and are located in the so-called habitable zone, where water can be present in liquid form.”
Should they be deemed habitable, it could lead to many big things for humanity, but there is still a lot to study for both of them.
13. Proxima Centauri b
If we wish to talk pure distance, Proxima Centauri b is the closest possible Earth-like planet to us with a distance of just 4.2 light years from the planet.
However, despite the closeness of the planet, there is a major problem in that the star it circles is 10% the size of our own. Yet, it gets 70% of the energy it emits, so that works in the planets’ favor. But, the star is known for having massive solar flares so that means the atmosphere Proxima Centauri b could be thin or non-existent.
This is a bit of a conundrum, but while it does have issues, it’s a planet many scientists are keeping an eye on in case they feel that humanity could live there.
12. Kepler 186-f
The Kepler Space Telescope found this particular planet in 2010, Kelper 186-f is a planet that a certain scientist feels is the best bet for humanity overall in terms of living on other planets. Mainly because it’s only 10% bigger than the Earth, and that it is within the habitable zone of its star, so that means that water could be on the planet.
However, that same scientist notes that the distance from the star makes it the fifth within its system. And as a result of that, the planet only gets about 30% of the light and heat from the star. This means that the planet itself might be a frozen tundra or wasteland. Yet that doesn’t mean the planet is a write-off just yet. The atmosphere, which we don’t know much of yet, could be the deciding factor in whether this planet could be habitable or not.
Located 470 light years away from Earth, Kepler 438B is a long way away, but scientists still love this planet because it’s so similar to Earth in many respects.
How exactly do you measure that? Well believe it or not, there’s an “Earth Similarity Index”, and Kepler-438B ranks pretty highly on it apparently. In fact, it has an 88% similarity of Earth. That’s REALLY high, and so many are hoping to learn more about this planet because it could be one that is supporting life right now. Then again, even though it’s a 12% difference, that could be all it takes to make it vastly different from Earth as a whole.
Including not having an atmosphere, getting much more sunlight than we do, and more. Still, as a blueprint for Earthlike planets, Kepler 438B does rank highly.
This planet was discovered in 2015 and upon observing the planet, the people who found it decided to name it “Super Earth“. Kepler-452B is actually 5 times the size of our Earth. That’s massive. But ironically, in terms of the orbit it has around its sun, it’s not that far off. It does it in 385 days compared to our 365. That’s basically just another month, which wouldn’t be too bad.
Sadly, the other aspects of Kepler-452B are bad. In space, size really does matter. Our planet is perfect in many aspects in regards to size, and that includes how big its gravity is. Kepler-452B has gravity twice the size of Earth, and because of its ability to absorb more sunlight via its star, the planet is actually much hotter than our Earth is.
It wouldn’t be impossible to live here, but it would be hard.
COROT-7b made a lot of waves when it was discovered back in 2009, mainly because it looked to be a terrestrial planet that could have a future for humanity. But it’s also a reminder that just because something looks good doesn’t always mean it has what you need.
In this case, while COROT-7b is only 1.58 times the size of Earth (which is pretty good size-wise), it’s REALLY close to the sun. By that I mean it orbits its sun in 20 hours flat. As a result, the planet is unbearable hot.
Oh well, onwards and upwards, right?
In our own solar system, Mars is said to be the place that is the likely spot where humanity will try and colonize first, we thought about how that could happen in this article. But, out in space, about 23.6 light years away, there is actually a planet that looks a lot like Mars. So much so that it’s called “Mars’ Cousin”. This is Gliese-667CC.
Now, ironically, while it’s called Mars’ Cousin, it’s a planet that has an 86% Earth Similarity Index. Which is impressive given that the planet is actually 3.8 times the size of Earth, the fact that it has three suns in its sky, and that its temperature is a bit colder than Earth by a not insignificant margin.
Not to mention, because of the three suns, the terrain of Gliese-667CC isn’t the best, it has a very dried out exterior, not unlike Mars.
Still, scientists see hope here because the planet gets 90% of the sunlight that Earth gets. So it’s possible that despite these flaws that there could be a location on the planet where humanity could live well enough.
7. The “Seven Earths”
In February 2017 it was found that there might be 7 Earth-like planets in a place just outside our own galaxy. In fact, all seven planets inhabit one galaxy.
Finding one Earthlike planet is hard enough, yet, they seem to have found seven of these kinds of planets that are orbiting a dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1.
According to images they are about the same size as Earth, and some of them (based on pictures and scans) do appear to have water on their own. Should this be true, and should we be able to reach them, this could be a major colonization option for Earth.
This planet here has another name, and one that’s actually a bit cooler, Zarmina. Oh, and it’s only 20 light years away from Earth. It was discovered in 2010 by Stephen Vogt.
There are some immediate problems with the planet though. It’s another in a long list of planets that are tidally locked with the sun, which again limits where we can live on it and what we can do with it. However, in this unique case, Zarmina’s atmosphere is said to be so strong that it can actually disperse things so that the side facing the sun is much more habitable and the excess would be sent to the “dark side” of the planet. To that end, it’s possible that there’s at least one ocean on this world.
Now, it’s year is only a little over 60 days, and its temperatures can get pretty cold because the sun isn’t as strong as our own. But some scientists think that there’s a high probability that Zarmina has life on it.
5. Barnard’s Star b
Found in 2018, and located a mere 6 light years away from Earth (that’s really close for the record), Barnard’s Star b is the 2nd-closest exoplanet to Earth right now.
But, like many planets, there is already some problems being noted by scientists. First off, the mass. The size and mass of Barnard’s Star b is actually 2.3 times more than Earth, and as noted, that could have a huge impact on the gravity of the planet.
Plus, the planet is orbiting a red dwarf star, and its distance ensures that the planet doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. Which is sad, because its orbit of about 233 is actually really appealing.
It’s interesting to note that it took them this long to find the planet it despite it being so close to Earth (and us having found planets MUCH farther away). It actually took a wide array of telescopes and organizations to find it. Which does raise an interesting question. If we just found this Earth-like planet in 2018, and it’s really close to Earth, are there others out there just waiting to be discovered within the same range?
Surprised? You shouldn’t be, there’s a reason that Venus is referred to as a “sister planet” to the Earth, as it’s honestly not to far from what Earth is and what a habitable planet could be. However, as you hopefully know, Venus is also a cautionary tale of what could happen if we let the Greenhouse Effect takeover the planet. The reason we don’t colonize Venus is because it’s closer to the sun, which makes the planet a lot hotter. A byproduct of that heat is the gasses that fill up the atmosphere. It’s toxic, and it makes the planet even hotter.
Some scientists still think we can either live there, or restore the atmosphere in a way to make things cooler. But for now, that’s just wishful thinking.
Oh yeah, another Kepler planet, but also another “Super Earth“, and was discovered in April of 2013. One of the biggest differences between Kepler-62F and other planets on this list is its star. Because the star that the planet orbits is actually 7 billion years old. In terms of star life, that’s pretty long.
Back to the planet, Kepler-62F is only 1.4 times the size of Earth. Which is actually great, because gravity wouldn’t be that much different, and certain features could potentially be the same. Emphasis on “potentially”.
Sadly, while the star of Kepler-62F is old, it doesn’t emit the same light and heat, so that actually makes Kepler-62F a bit of a water world. More accurately though, it’s one made of ice in many parts. This is due to the fact that Kepler-62F is tidally locked with its star. Meaning that one side faces the sun all the time, while the other doesn’t face it at all.
Still, scientists believe it could support life. But given the planets nature, it would likely be localized to certain areas of the world.
Found 600 light years from Earth, Kepler-22b is within the Habitable Zone of its star. As well as being twice the size of Earth, the yearly rotation is somewhat similar to our own at about 292 days.
Now, temperature wise, the planet actually isn’t too bad. The best readings state that at its worst it may only get down to 11 degrees Fahrenheit, and at its best, it’ll be around 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Which means the planet doesn’t get immensely hot, but also not too cold.
The catch though (why is there always a catch?) is that the outer layer of the planet is believed to either be all water, or all gas. It’s unclear how this could affect humanity, but it is something to note. Still, this is considered one of the best Earth-like planets that we know of right now, and some are even stating that should Earth evacuate, we’d be going to it over other possible contenders.
1. The Milky Way Galaxy And Beyond
So at this point you’ve seen a ton of Earth-like planets, but that does beg the question, “How many more are out there?” The honest answer is that we don’t know, mainly because the universe is so big that we haven’t had the opportunity to go and explore everything that it has to offer. However, estimates state that just within the Milky Way Galaxy (which is where we live) there are about 10 billion Earthlike planets.
To be clear, these are only estimates, and they’re based on stars and planets that COULD have the right circumstances for life, such as having water and things of the like.
And as we’ve proven here, just because you’re “Earthlike” doesn’t mean that you’re a perfect match for Earth. But, with all of those possibilities, it does give one hope for what might be out there.