Nautilus

The Fun-House Mirror Earths

It’s been just over two decades since astronomers announced the first discoveries of exoplanets—planets orbiting stars other than the sun—and their progress in the intervening years has been so routinely remarkable its recitation now seems mundane: There are now thousands of cataloged exoplanets, and hundreds of billions more probably await discovery in the Milky Way alone. The exoplanet searches, steadily growing in number and sophistication, are increasingly uncovering worlds that, in size and orbit, resemble our own. Such worlds appear large enough to hold on to substantial atmospheres, yet still small enough to be mostly rocky, like the Earth. They seem to circle neither scorchingly close nor frigidly far from their stars, and instead reside somewhere within a “habitable zone” between those extremes, in orbits where liquid water—and thus life as we know it—could exist.

Considering all this, you could

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