Earth-like exoplanets have gotten a lot of attention in the last few years; it's exciting to think that there's life — or even just life-sustaining conditions — on planets other than Earth, whether near by (on Mars
) or much farther away (orbiting Vega
). Projects like NASA's Kepler
, and the ground-based HARPS
, attempt to spot planets outside our solar system of all kinds. These exoplanet discoveries have been ramping up lately, and so has sorting of the discovered planets
by size and other characteristics; the odds are looking good, say astronomers quoted by Space.com, that an Earth-like planet will be found this year
. Abel Mendez runs the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, and UC Berkeley astromer Geoff Marcy looks for planets as part of the Kepler team; they explain in the article why they think 2013 is an auspicious one for planet hunters.