Utah professor proposes possibility of ‘superhabitable’ planets

Posted at 7:22 PM, Feb 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-07 21:22:59-05

OGDEN, Utah -- If you’ve seen the movie “Avatar,” you would probably agree that it is a beautiful world, but what if a world lush and beautiful like this existed but was in a condition that humans could live on?

Well, Dr. John Armstrong at Weber State University has some ideas that are out of this world.

“Imagine the deserts of Utah and imagine the Amazon Jungle, they’re both habitable, we have life in both places, but the Amazon is clearly lusher and more habitable than the deserts of Utah,” Armstrong said.

Two years ago, Dr. John Armstrong asked a question at a seminar that sparked the interest of an astrophysicist in Canada.

Armstrong said his question was: “Is it possible that the Earth is a bit of a desert world and that there might be other planets out there that are more like the Amazon, where life could have a better opportunity to survive? So we looked at various planets across the galaxy to see if there were things that could improve the habitability of the planet.”

The two coined the term “superhabitable” – wondering if there are planets in other universes that are older, bigger and with more water and extended tropical areas.

“Maybe we’re living on the sticks, this is the boondocks and out there some place there is life that is thriving even more so than on the Earth,” Armstrong said.

Just last month, Armstrong co-published an article called Superhabitable Worlds, and already it has received attention from National Geographic, NPR and several social media outlets.

“To get this much exposure is exciting because usually our field is very narrow that there’s maybe only a dozen people that are really interested in what you’re doing,” Armstrong said.

“Any kind of news like that is really pretty exciting," said Greg Colledge, a Senior at WSU who is one of the students involved in exploring the possibility of such planets. "Sometimes it seems like things are so far away that you get news of things like that, it makes it a lot more exciting to be involved in."

Armstrong said he hopes to see something come up in the next 5 to 10 years.

“When I’m done, I want to point up in the sky and say, ‘I know there’s other life out there someplace,'" he said.