A research team at Chile's La Silla Observatory has found a new crop of 50 exoplanets, at least one of which is in the "habitable zone" (i.e. an Earthlike distance from the sun). HD 85512 b is rocky instead of gaseous, big but not too big, and preliminary observations suggest an average surface temperature of a balmy 77 degrees F — all of which make it a good candidate to be Earth Mark II. Phew, just in time! This one's almost worn out!
Of course, there are a LOT of unanswered questions — "does this planet even have water" being the biggie. The researchers call it "potentially habitable" and "on the edge of habitability," and that's if it's got more than 50 percent cloud coverage (which would indicate water). And interplanetary colonization is so inconceivably far in the future that this is not really an excuse to quit trying to save the planet we're on. But it's nice to know that if we really do send Earth into an irreversible tailspin, or it gets destroyed by Vogons or something, we might be able to start over with a new planet and maybe not eff it up so bad.
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