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Nearly 2,000 Planets That Could Hold Water, Visualized

Not too hot, not too cold, and not very close to home at all.

In case you're ever gazing up at the sky wondering exactly how many exoplanets are in that sweet, potentially habitable "Goldilocks zone," this interactive website has your answer. A lot., created by Dutch company TULP Interactive, is an interactive site that gives you a visual representation of some 1,942 confirmed exoplanets (planets that orbit stars outside our own) that exist in the habitable zone of their host stars, known as the Goldilocks zone. It's that range outside a star where liquid water can be retained in a planet's atmosphere—too close to the sun and it's vapor, too far and it's ice.


The site also gives you a few neat visualization tools that organize the various properties of those planets. You can sort the planets by how similar they are to Earth, whether they're more rocky or gassy, and show their masses and surface temperatures. You can see which planets receive the most energy from their sun—that's in the tab labeled solar flux. The model even gets the orbital speeds down.

The Goldilocks label includes every planet that goes through its star's habitable zone for over half its orbital period, and that's one factor astronomists use to determine a planet is habitable. To be clear, being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't necessarily qualify a planet as habitable or Earth-like, just that it's able to retain water. Many of the planets shown on Goldilocks aren't very similar to our own planet, if you're going by the Earth Similarity Index.

The term "Earth-like" tends to be tossed around a bit too easily. It's an unfortunate misnomer whose only requirement for membership is that you can check off a few boxes for similarities to Earth, and it's potentially misleading enough that at a quick glance you could confuse "Earth-like" to mean "habitable." Perhaps we should save "Earth-like" for the planets that are truly like ours.

All that being said, our best hope of finding life in space lies with looking at the planets that can actually retain water, the Goldilocks zone. And as you can now see, there are plenty of them.