Exoplanets, or "extrasolar planets," orbit stars outside of our own solar system. With the help of telescopes such as Kepler and the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope, scientists have detected thousands of planets—likely only a small portion of what is yet to be discovered.
Understanding both exoplanets and the complexities of habitability, we can advance our plans to detect a signature of life in the universe. We don't anticipate finding "little green men" or intelligent life beyond our solar system, but rather microbial life, much like what inhabited Earth for most of its 4.6 billion-year history.
By using early Earth studies, our Alternative Earths team can help better understand what types of conditions an exoplanet should have to suggest habitability.