Dwarf planetary systems will transform the hunt for alien life

It would be disappointing and surprising if Earth were the only template for habitability in the Universe. 

In this handout digital illustration released by NASA, the newly-discovered gaseous planet Kepler-16b orbits its two stars: the larger a K dwarf and the smaller a red dwarf. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt via Getty Images)

Written speculation about life beyond the confines of Earth dates back thousands of years, to the time of the Greek philosophers Epicurus and Democritus. Unrecorded curiosity about this question undoubtedly goes back much further still. Remarkably, today’s generation seems about to get an answer from the study of exoplanets – planets orbiting other stars than the Sun. The early results are upending many assumptions from that long history. 

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