A Second Earth in Our Solar System

Traveling to another Earth-like world just got a lot easier. It turns out that there may be many other dirt-and-water planets lurking at the edges of our solar system in places like the Oort Cloud. These planets, which could be roughly the size of our own, would contain all the elements we need for life. They're just sitting in a cold, dimly-lit part of the solar system, waiting to be defrosted and colonized. Yesterday, NASA scientists announced that this changes the prognosis for nearby livable planets.

NASA's Alan Stern said these planets are so far away from the sun that we haven't seen them yet:

Our old view, that the Solar System had nine planets will be supplanted by a view that there are hundreds if not thousands of planets in our Solar System. It could be that there are objects of Earth-mass in the Oort cloud (a band of debris surrounding our planetary system) but they would be frozen at these distances. They would look like a frozen Earth.

So all we need to do is haul one of those babies into our orbit, defrost it, and start populating. Earth 2, here I come!

Beyond our solar system, millions more Earth 2s await. University of Arizona astronomer Michael Meyer, co-author of a study about extrasolar dirt-and-water worlds, told reporters:

Our observations suggest that between 20% and 60% of Sun-like stars have evidence for the formation of rocky planets not unlike the processes we think led to planet Earth. That is very exciting.

Image from Guardian Unlimited.

Planet-hunters set for big bounty [BBC News]