If you are looking for a habitable planet to feature in your story, novel or game, you can’t go far wrong by looking at the extra-solar planets we’ve already discovered.
This really is an exciting time for planetary astronomy (and an exciting time to be a science fiction writer), with new discoveries being made left, right and center. New dwarf planets are still being discovered within our own solar system. Of course, to most science fiction writers, these are little more than dull little balls of ice and rock – the really interesting discoveries are those being made elsewhere.
News of newly discovered exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) has been bombarding the scientific and science fiction communities of late. Of course, the question on everybody’s lips is “are any of these planets habitable?” We want to know if which of these planets, if any, would be a plausible location for a future human colony. We also want to learn everything we can about these planets before we take the bold step of including them in our stories. A new online tool has been launched to help us do just that – the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog.
There are several online catalogs that list the many exoplanets we’ve discovered, but the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (published by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory – University of Puerto Rico) concerns itself only with those Earth-like planets that are potentially habitable.
So far, the catalog has identified and listed sixteen planets with potential habitability, but this number is sure to grow. (13/12/2011)
Information such as hClass, pClass, mass, HZD and ESI make it easier to compare just how habitable these planets are likely to be (and, if this sentence confused you, there is information available on what these values mean).
This database will obviously be a very useful tool for science fiction writers, in particular writers of hard SF. Because exoplanet discoveries are continuously being made, we really do recommend you check out the database for up-to-date information (something we at SciFi Ideas can’t always provide).
You can find the Habitable Exoplanet Catalog at http://phl.upr.edu/projects/habitable-exoplanets-catalog.