Indeed, as we search for life on other planets, we've used the Earth as our standard reference. Practically speaking, it's the only model we've got — and it appears to be a pretty damned good one; Earth has been teeming with life for billions of years and, quite importantly, it's even spawned a radio-capable, space-faring civilization.
That being said, what makes us so sure it's the best model for habitability? Could other planets or moons be even more suitable for life? A pair of astrobiologists say yes. To find a habitable and ultimately an inhabited world, they argue we should adopt a biocentric approach rather than a geo- or anthropocentric one.
In MAVEN's first few weeks of instrument testing at the Red Planet, scientists have already created some of the most complete maps of atomic hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and ozone in the Martian atmosphere ever made. One of MAVEN's instruments even collected data as energetic particles blasted out by a massive solar eruption made it to Mars.
But this star, called HD 34989 (among other alphanumeric designations) is special. For one thing, it's massive, probably 10 times the mass of our Sun. It's also incredibly luminous, shining 15,000 times brighter than the Sun. Put that in the center of our solar system, and the global warming we're experiencing now would seem like the deep freeze. Happily, it's over a thousand light years away.
Astronomers aren't being poetic when they say this star is a diamond.
Scientists have identified what is possibly the coldest white dwarf ever detected. In fact, this dim stellar corpse is so cold that its carbon has crystallized, effectively forming a diamond the size of Earth, astronomers said.