It’s time to expose a scientific catastrophe: the myth of the super-habitable super-Earth planet.
Some call super-Earths the most common and most habitable of all exoplanets.
It’s true that we’ve found more super-Earth exoplanets than any other type.
It’s also true that, if rocky, they have more surface area and organic ingredients than Earth-sized worlds.
But that doesn’t translate into “super-Earths” being more abundant or more habitable.
We have two primary methods for finding exoplanets.
The radial velocity method more easily reveals massive, closely orbiting systems.
The transit method has exactly the same bias.
Neither method is optimized for finding Earth-sized or smaller worlds.
The dearth of small exoplanets is because of detection sensitivity, not intrinsic populations.
Moreover, nearly all so-called super-Earths aren’t Earth-like at all.
The majority are Neptune-like, possessing large, volatile gas envelopes.
With crushingly thick atmospheres, the prospects for habitability are dim.
Moreover, the rocky super-Earths are suspiciously Mercury-like: hot and close to their stars.
They’re likely bare planetary cores, and, like Mercury, they may undergo mantle-stripping.
Being ~twice Earth’s mass and ~1.3 times Earth’s radius is probably an exoplanet’s maximum “Earth-like” size.
Super-Earths are inappropriately named. These mini-Neptunes and stripped planetary cores are anything but life-friendly.
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