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.
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.
Buffeted by the solar wind, Comet Lovejoy's crooked ion tail stretches over 3 degrees across this telescopic field of view, recorded on February 20. The starry background includes awesome bluish star Phi Persei below, and pretty planetary nebula M76 just above Lovejoy's long tail. Also known as the Little Dumbbell Nebula, after its brighter cousin M27 the Dumbbell Nebula, M76 is only a Full Moon's width away from the comet's greenish coma. Still shining in northern hemisphere skies, this Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) is outbound from the inner solar system some 10 light-minutes or 190 million kilometers from Earth. But the Little Dumbbell actually lies over 3 thousand light-years away. Now sweeping steadily north toward the constellation Cassiopeia Comet Lovejoy is fading more slowly than predicted and is still a good target for small telescopes.