Do we live in the best possible place for life to exist in the universe?

The Earth pro­vides a com­fort­able envi­ron­ment for life to flour­ish. But is it pos­si­ble that some plan­ets have more favor­able con­di­tions for life than our home? And if so, is there a chance that life has evolved on these oth­er planets?

This blog post will con­sid­er the ques­tion of what makes a plan­et best hab­it­able, as well as whether or not earth is the best place for life to exist in the whole universe.

What is the best planet for life?

earth, the best planet

In order to know what makes a plan­et most hab­it­able, we have to pref­ace this ques­tion with an answer to a more spe­cif­ic one: what is life? Despite being such a broad and long-stand­ing ques­tion, sci­en­tists are still argu­ing over the def­i­n­i­tion of “life” today. We can’t real­ly expect to agree on an exact def­i­n­i­tion until we fig­ure out whether oth­er life exists or not.

If we were to apply the com­mon sense def­i­n­i­tion, life is sim­ply a self-sus­tain­ing sys­tem that is capa­ble of repro­duc­ing. This nar­rows our search down to sin­gle cells and oth­er sim­ple organ­isms. But even with that def­i­n­i­tion, we can still talk about plan­ets being more life-friend­ly than others.

The best plan­et for life would be a plan­et that sup­ports an envi­ron­ment suit­able for the evo­lu­tion of cells; both sim­ple and com­plex.  We could say that a large hab­it­able zone – which allows for the exis­tence of liq­uid water oceans — is an impor­tant fac­tor. Fur­ther­more, plan­ets should have large amounts resources such as car­bon and nitro­gen on its sur­face in order to fuel life’s processes. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, it is impor­tant for a plan­et to have large land mass­es with a large tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence between day and night. This allows for at least some plants to sur­vive, due to the low­er tem­per­a­tures dur­ing the night. Of course, oth­er fac­tors such as sur­face grav­i­ty and atmos­phere are also important.

What would make that planet “best”?

The def­i­n­i­tion of what exact­ly makes a plan­et hab­it­able is still being worked out. This issue has very diverse impli­ca­tions when it comes to the search for life in oth­er places in the uni­verse. For instance, some sci­en­tists argue that life could exist in the cold, methane-rich envi­ron­ments of Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede. But oth­ers argue that ice is not a good medi­um for cells to develop. 

Fur­ther­more, they argue that life would have a hard time sur­viv­ing due to the extreme tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ences between the day and night side. More gen­er­al­ly, sci­en­tists are still try­ing to deter­mine whether or not com­plex ecosys­tems can evolve on oth­er plan­ets with extreme cli­mates such as red giant stars or super-Earths.

Earth is awesome: but what could have been even better for habitation?

Earth alternatives

The Earth is a pret­ty awe­some place to live.  Earth­’s aver­age dis­tance to the Sun is about 93 mil­lion miles, mak­ing it per­fect­ly suit­ed for host­ing life. On our plan­et, we have a diverse bios­phere with many types of liv­ing things. But what if some­thing could have been even bet­ter? We are going to list down some awe­some fea­tures a more hab­it­able plan­et than earth, would have:

Large temperature difference between day and night

As we already explained, this encour­ages the devel­op­ment of plants, which can be eat­en by ani­mals. Life would be even eas­i­er to sur­vive in a plan­et with a large day­time tem­per­a­ture range. This would also increase the bio­di­ver­si­ty of life.

Large land area

Imag­ine if our plan­et was big enough to fit every con­ti­nent on it! As well as pos­sess­ing all the nec­es­sary resources, hav­ing a larg­er sur­face area will allow for more dif­fer­ent types of cli­mates and habi­tats for ani­mals to live in.

Large Moon

As well as being aes­thet­i­cal­ly beau­ti­ful, the moon has been cru­cial to the devel­op­ment of life on earth. It sta­bi­lizes our axi­al tilt and rota­tion­al axis, which affects tem­per­a­ture and it caus­es ocean tides. Thus, hav­ing a larg­er moon may allow for more sta­ble environments.

Different gravity

A slight­ly less grav­i­ty would be just per­fect. It would make it eas­i­er for ani­mals to move around and func­tion more effi­cient­ly. Although, a grav­i­ty too much less than what we have here on earth would be bad. It would make it hard­er for our bod­ies to func­tion and become too light to hold on to.

Relat­ed Sto­ry:

Longer days and nights 

A longer day and night cycle would encour­age more bio­di­ver­si­ty and allow for a greater vari­ety of organ­isms to evolve. Also, hav­ing a day and night cycle at the same time could mean that ani­mals that hunt at night would­n’t have to com­pete with those that hunt dur­ing the day for food.

A different atmosphere 

We need our plan­et’s atmos­phere in order to pro­tect us from the Sun’s harm­ful radi­a­tion. As well as being a huge source of oxy­gen, the atmos­phere affects our cli­mate and weath­er pat­terns. How­ev­er, we could change our atmos­phere if we could. 

Some pos­si­ble ways to do this would be by mak­ing it thick­er (so, more oxy­gen can reach the top lay­ers of the oceans). Or by hav­ing liq­uid water on the sur­face so that green­house gas­es can accu­mu­late on its surface.

Rec­om­mend­ed: What will your age be after com­ing back from past travel?

But still,

If we could only have one thing, it would be our home plan­et! It pro­vides all the nec­es­sary resources and life sup­port sys­tems required to allow for life to develop. 

How­ev­er, many sci­en­tists think that our plan­et has evolved due to its unique his­to­ry which is impos­si­ble for oth­er plan­ets to repli­cate. A plan­et with a his­to­ry sim­i­lar enough to ours may be able recre­ate con­di­tions con­ducive for life on earth. For instance, some oth­er sci­en­tists think that plan­ets formed in the same type of way as Earth did (ice form­ing first, then rocky material).

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