Scientists have discovered an Earth-like plant approximately 31 light years from Earth and there’s a strong possibility of it harboring life. HD85512b orbits an orange dwarf in the constellation Vela and is the right distance from the sun to make it one of the most Earth-like planets ever discovered. The plant is three-and-a-half times the mass of Earth and is in the inner part of the “goldilocks zone” which means it’s not too hot or cold for liquid water to be present. The size of the planet suggests an Earth-like atmosphere of oxygen and nitrogen rather than the hydrogen and helium that dominate the atmospheres of larger worlds.
The plant is more than one billion years older than earth which means there has been plenty of time for life to develop. Its star is also more mature than our own making it less prone to violent solar activity that could destabilize the planet’s atmosphere. The planet is closer to its sun than Earth but scientists think if there is at least 50 percent cloud cover on the planet, it may be possible for life to flourish (Earth has about 60 percent cloud cover).
There is no way to tell what type of atmosphere that planet has for sure with current instruments and if it’s truly capable of supporting life. But as technology improves, we will continue to get closer to finding life forms outside of our own planet and solar system.
The picture above is a rendering of what an alien habitable planet might look like if we could ever get close enough to see it. Illustration courtesy L. Calçada, ESO