It is 2018, and the Kepler space telescope has officially retired. Analysts are now sifting through its massive haul of data in the hope of confirming the existence of remote planets. As two NASA interns examine a batch of measurements initially discarded by the space agency, they discover what appears to be a “super-Earth.” And it just might be capable of supporting carbon-based life.
Technically, a super-Earth is simply a medium-sized planet with a greater mass than the Earth, regardless of its composition. In fact, a super-Earth might be composed of rocks, metals, ice or gas, but only those planets capable of maintaining liquid water are considered to lie within a star’s circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ) or “goldilocks zone” – the orbital range considered habitable for carbon-based life.