We observed Barnard's Star and Ross 128 last Sunday

Click image for more details, or click here for larger version.

These are artistic representations of the top planets around other stars (exoplanets) with any potential to support liquid surface waterAll of them are larger than Earth and we are not certain about their composition and habitability yet. We only know that they seem to have the right size and orbit to support surface liquid water. They are ranked here from closest to farthest from Earth. This selection of objects of interest is subject to change as new interpretations or astronomical observations are made. Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune are shown for scale on the right.

Current Number of Potentially Habitable Exoplanets

1 21 30 52

subterran0.1 — 0.5 ME or 0.4 — 0.8 RE, terran0.5 — 5 ME or 0.8 — 1.5 RE, superterran5 — 10 ME or 1.5 — 2.5 REME = Earth masses, and RE = Earth radii.

Conservative Sample of Potentially Habitable Exoplanets

This is a list of the exoplanets that are more likely to have a rocky composition and maintain surface liquid water (i.e. 0.5 < Planet Radius ≤ 1.5 Earth radii or 0.1 < Planet Minimum Mass ≤ 5 Earth masses, and the planet is orbiting within the conservative habitable zone). They are represented artistically in the top image.

Optimistic Sample of Potentially Habitable Exoplanets

This is a list of the exoplanets that are less likely to have a rocky composition or maintain surface liquid water (i.e. 1.5 < Planet Radius ≤ 2.5 Earth radii or 5 < Planet Minimum Mass ≤ 10 Earth masses, or the planet is orbiting within the optimistic habitable zone).


Tables Legend

  • Name - Name of the planet. This links to the data of the planet at the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia or NASA Exoplanet Archive.
  • Type - PHL's classification of planets that includes host star spectral type (F, G, K, M), habitable zone location (hot, warm, cold) and size (miniterran, subterran, terran, superterran, jovian, neptunian) (e.g. Earth = G-Warm Terran, Venus = G-Hot Terran, Mars = G-Warm Subterran).
  • Mass - Minimum mass of the planet in Earth masses (Earth = 1.0 ME). Estimated for a pure iron, rocky, and water composition, respectively, when not available. 
  • Radius - Radius of planet in Earth radii (Earth = 1.0 RE). Estimated for a pure iron, rocky, and water composition, respectively, when not available.
  • Flux - Average stellar flux of the planet in Earth fluxes (Earth = 1.0 SE).
  • Teq - Equilibrium temperature in kelvins (K) assuming a 0.3 bond albedo (Earth = 255 K). Actual surface temperatures are expected to be larger than the equilibrium temperature depending on the atmosphere of the planets, which are currently unknown (e.g. Earth mean global surface temperature is about 288 K or 15°C).
  • Period - Orbital period in days (Earth = 365 days).
  • Distance - Distance from Earth in light years (ly).
  • ESI - Earth Similarity Index, a measure of similarity to Earth that summarizes how similar are these planets to the stellar flux, mass, and radius of Earth (Earth = 1.0). Results are sorted by this number. Planets more similar to Earth are not necessarily more habitable, since the ESI does not consider all factors necessary for habitability.

The figure above shows all planets near the habitable zone (darker green shade is the conservative habitable zone and the lighter green shade is the optimistic habitable zone). Only those planets less than 10 Earth masses or 2.5 Earth radii are labeled. Some are still unconfirmed (* = unconfirmed). The different limits of the habitable zone are described in Kopparapu et al. (2014). Size of the circles corresponds to the radius of the planets (estimated from a mass-radius relationship when not available). Larger version here. Credit: PHL @ UPR Arecibo