This newly discovered planet is just 22 light-years away. Its discoverers are calling it the "new best candidate" to support water, and possibly life. The planet's unique features could even make it the ideal home for creatures like the Predator!
We talked to the experts, to find out why this new-found world might harbor very different creatures than our own planet.
Predator fan art via Acid Cow
The newly discovered planet, which has the rather catchy name of GJ 667Cc, is at least 4.5 times the mass of our planet, and it orbits its host star every 28 days. While that may not sound anything like our planet, the fact that it orbits a much dimmer red dwarf star means that it ends up getting about 90% of the sunlight we get on Earth. But most of that light would be infrared, which would allow the planet to absorb more energy than if the light was in optical wavelengths.
That places the planet comfortably in the habitable zone of its host star — but it also raises some intriguing possibilities about what the nature of life on this planet. Life on our planet evolved to see primarily in optical wavelengths because most of the light that gets through the atmosphere is visible, while other wavelengths like ultraviolet and infrared are absorbed by the ozone layer. That's especially true of the oceans, where vision initially evolved hundreds of millions of years ago, as the water tends to block out everything but a very narrow band of optical wavelengths. (For a good overview on this, check out this paper on eye evolution by Stanford's Russell Fernald.)
We can only speculate how life might evolve differently on a planet that is predominately bathed in infrared light. Our first thought was that organisms on GJ 667Cc might have their vision centered on infrared wavelengths instead of optical ones. Of course, there's no better example of an infrared alien than your friendly neighborhood Predator, which pretty much demands the question: is GJ 667Cc the Predator's home planet?
While we couldn't quite bring ourselves to ask that question to scientists, we did ask the planet's discoverers about whether GJ 667Cc could be home to predominately infrared life. UC Santa Cruz astronomer Steven Vogt, who we talked to back in 2010 about his work on the potentially habitable planet Gliese 581g, says it's way too early to know for sure — but it's definitely not impossible: