On Monday, the eve of Nicolaus Copernicus' 540th Birthday, a newly-reordered list of the most Earth-like planets in the known universe was released by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. Some planets once thought to be warm and tropical have fallen off the list entirely, while other planets have been promoted to the coveted Goldilocks Zone in-crowd.
Researchers have come up with a refined system for categorizing the potential habitability of exoplanets on the Earth Similarity Index (ESI), releasing their findings just last week. The existing system was badly in need of an overhaul, since the old system — now 20 years old — was created before even one exoplanet had been located.
This new system changes a lot, not only taking into effect the temperatures and radiation levels of the stars exoplanets orbit, but such sciency-sounding things as HITRAN (high-resolution transmission molecular absorption) and HITEMP (high-temperature spectroscopic absorption parameters) relating to the stability of water.
If the Starship Enterpise is ever to become a reality — boldly going where no one has gone before — then the scientists who are right now confirming and refuting the habitability of these planets are the stellar cartographers of that tomorrow. Starship captains of the future will plot courses to these worlds, seeking new life and new civilizations. Where they might be headed, in order of likelihood, are these nine planets.