Infographic: The 10 Most Earth-Like Exoplanets Discovered So Far

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 - 5:22PM
Astronomy
Wednesday, 25 November 2015 - 5:22PM
Infographic: The 10 Most Earth-Like Exoplanets Discovered So Far
Though they were predicted long ago, the existence of planets outside of our solar system wasn't actually confirmed until 1992 when Aleksander Wolszczan discovered the Hot Jupiter class planet 51 Pegasi b. In the years since, our knowledge of the space outside of our solar system has grown exponentially, and the scientific is now all but unanimous in believing that there are hundreds of millions of planet-hosting stars in our galaxy alone. 

But, despite the first exoplanet discovery coming over two decades ago, it wasn't until recently that the picture outside our solar system started to clear. In 2004, the European Southern Observatory's Chilean array detected faint glimmers of light coming from a star some 200 light years away. These glimmers would go on to become the first image of an exoplanet ever recorded and would precede dozens of more discoveries made by ESO equipment. In 2009, NASA launched the Kepler Space telescope, which by early 2014 would become the most prolific exoplanet hunter ever created despite suffering what was thought to be a catastrophic mechanical failure back in 2013. To date, Kepler has discovered over 1000 exoplanets, bringing the total number of confirmed exoplanets up to just shy of 2000.

But data from the likes of ESO and NASA's work has done far more than just confirm the existence of these exoplanets, it's also enabled us to get a good idea of what they might look like. The level of detail gained by these discoveries is such that we are now able to, fairly accurately, rank confirmed exoplanets based on how they compare to Earth. As this infographic shows, some of them come remarkably close to matching the conditions we experience on our home planet, which means they also have the potential to play host to alien life. Key to much of this is the distance at which a planet orbits its host star. Orbit too close and the planet is an uninhabitable furnace, but orbit too far away and it's likely that no life could exist within its frozen confines. 

So, which planet is the most Earth-like discovered to date? Check out the league table below!

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