Top 5 Potentially Inhabitable Alien Planets

Since it was launched in 2009, NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered more than 700 confirmed planets outside our solar system. Some may be quite appealing to humans in the future. 

What's the Latest Development?

Since NASA's Kepler spacecraft was launched in 2009, it has discovered over 700 confirmed planets outside our solar system. The most promising planets are those which most resemble Earth, i.e. have about the same size, are made of rock and orbit in its star's habitable zone, where temperatures allow liquid water to be maintained. At the top of the list is Gliese 581g, a rocky planet just 20 light-years from Earth. "It's likely two to three times as massive as Earth and zips around its parent star, the red dwarf Gliese 581, every 30 days or so."

What's the Big Idea?

Discovered in February 2012, Gliese 667Cc orbits a red dwarf star some 22 light-years away, in the constellation Scorpius. "The alien world is a so-called 'super-Earth' that's at least 4.5 times as massive as our planet, and it completes an orbit every 28 days. At least one other planet resides in the 667C system." Third on the list is Kepler-22b, whose name is an homage to the craft that discovered it in December 2011. "If the greenhouse effect operates on Kepler-22b like it does on Earth, the alien world would have an average surface temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius), researchers have said."

Photo credit:

Develop mindfulness to boost your creative intelligence

Sharon Salzberg, world-renowned mindfulness leader, teaches meditation at Big Think Edge.

Image: Big Think
Big Think Edge
  • Try meditation for the first time with this guided lesson or, if you already practice, enjoy being guided by a world-renowned meditation expert.
  • Sharon Salzberg teaches mindfulness meditation for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Google Maps apologizes for going rogue in Japan

The navigation tool has placed a school in the sea, among other things.

Strange Maps
  • Google has apologized for the sudden instability of its maps in Japan.
  • Errors may stem from Google's long-time map data provider Zenrin – or from the cancellation of its contract.
  • Speculation on the latter option caused Zenrin shares to drop 16% last Friday.
Keep reading Show less

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

A new theory explains Jupiter’s perplexing origin

A new computer model solves a pair of Jovian riddles.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill)
Surprising Science
  • Astronomers have wondered how a gas giant like Jupiter could sit in the middle of our solar system's planets.
  • Also unexplained has been the pair of asteroid clusters in front of and behind Jupiter in its orbit.
  • Putting the two questions together revealed the answer to both.
Keep reading Show less