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Thread: Marx's guide to finding Earth-like worlds

  1. #1

    Lightbulb Marx's guide to finding Earth-like worlds

    Welcome to my guide to finding Earth-like worlds! Questions about how to find or identify ELW-s often pop up, so I wrote this to cover the frequently asked questions and everything related. If you read this little text, you'll know how to improve your chances of finding ELW-s. Note that nothing below will guarantee that you'll find one at your next destination: at the end of the day, it's still dependent on the luck of the draw. But you can rig the odds in your favour.

    If you're not familiar with the List of Earth-like Worlds, you'll probably want to look it up. Most everything here was originally based on data gathered from there, with some work from others used too. (See the "sources and credits" at the end.)

    First off, some basics about star luminosity, primary and main stars, and system mass codes. Skip this part if you already know what those are.
    When you look up the exact star types on the galaxy map, you'll see stuff like "G4 VAB", "A9 VI" and so on. Out of these, the first letter is the star type, and the number is the star's luminosity. It goes from 0 (most luminous) to 9 (least luminous). This can help you gauge what to expect, and can be quite important when you're visiting class A stars - more on this later.
    The part afterwards refers to the stellar classification of the star. For the purposes of finding Earth-likes, this can mostly be ignored, as there's very little difference (in Elite) between VA, VAB, VB and so on: the one exception to this is VZ. Those systems tend to have much worse chances of containing Earth-likes, due to being younger and brighter than their counterparts.

    About primary and main stars: I use the term "primary stars" when I talk about stars in a system which co-orbit a common barycenter, and are not in orbit of another body. If there's only one star in the system, it's a solitary (primary) star. The main star of a system is the one that's visible in the star class filter on the galaxy map, and is almost universally the most massive star in the system, and as such, the one you'll arrive at. (There are a few exceptions to this with some handcrafted systems, mind.) Now, before you visit a system, the galaxy map will only list the primary stars there: stars which orbit these will be hidden until you get there. For example, you might go somewhere where the galaxy map only lists a Black Hole, only to find that there are red dwarf stars orbiting the main black hole as secondaries.
    Out of all these, the main star has pretty much always the highest influence on the system, so to speak.

    As for the system mass codes: the names of procedurally generated systems have plenty of clues in them, like their position within the galaxy, their position within the sector, and the total mass of the system. Here's an example system name:

    Wizz AR-D d1-42

    The bold letter is the system mass code. It goes from A (least massive) to H (most massive). The mass code corresponds quite well to the main star type: for example, the vast majority of class F primary stars are in mass code D systems.
    The chief advantage of knowing about mass codes is that you can get a good guess at what kind of main star you'll be jumping without calling up the galaxy map, thus saving you time if you're in a hurry.

    Also, a bit about useful utilities:
    Since the 2.2 release, the game stores a log of in-game events and information in the so-called Commander's Journal, or journal for short. Various third-party programs can read and process these to give you useful information, and also to automatically submit stellar data (which the journal also stores) to fanmade databases. Out of these utilities, I'd recommend EDJP first and foremost, as Matt Graham wrote it to aid with Earth-like Worlds and the list specifically.
    For more general usage, I'd also suggest EDDiscovery and Captain's Log 2, but they are general purpose programs.

    So, now that you know that, let's start. Where to look?
    First off, decide your answer to a very important question: do you want to go for quantity or quality? Do you wish to find many Earth-likes, or would you rather find rare ones?
    In the time it might take to find one of the rare or very rare kinds of ELW-s, you might find twenty "standard" ones. Keep this in mind when searching. On the other hand, people are much more likely to remember such Earth-likes - and in special cases, you might want to submit them to the Galactic Mapping Project too!

    Have you decided then?

    "I want to find all the Earth-likes!"
    Well, in that case, change your star class filter to class F only. You might have better chances at the lower end of the luminosity scale on class A stars (A7-A9), but above that, chances drop off steeply. Meanwhile, any class F star system that you visit will have the second best chances of containing an ELW.
    Also, since systems with class F main stars are almost universally mass code D, you can just stick to those if you're in too much of a hurry to call up the galaxy map. As such, mass code D systems also tend to have the highest chances of containing Earth-likes, most likely due to their favourable star compositions.

    "I want to find my special little Earth-like!"
    In this case, you have to choices. If you have any specific kinds of configuration in mind, then you can restrict your search to that. For example, want to find binary ELW-s? Stick to more luminous stars, as they'll have wider habitable zones: set your filters to class A and F. Want an ELW that orbits some planet as a moon? Go survey class B stars from the lower end of the luminosity range: they rarely contain ELW-s, but if they do, chances are good it'll be a moon. And so on.

    Don't know what exactly you want to find, you'd just be open to all? Disable route planner filtering by star class. You might get lucky and bump across an Earth-like orbiting a Herbig Ae/Be protostar, or a class L dwarf, and such - although the chances of this are very low.

    Also, about single primary star and multiple primary star systems. (See the terms above in case you're not certain what this means!)
    If there's only one star in a system, it makes the habitable zones fairly simple. Various utilities can even calculate you the distances at which planets might be habitable (either as candidates for terraforming, or ELW-s). If there are multiple stars, the situation becomes a lot more complex. The stars will generally "extend" each others' habitable zones, which is good, but stars being too close to each other might "clear out" planets, which is bad. So it's really a gamble. Overall, your chances of finding an ELW around a solitary star might be slightly (but not much) better, but an ELW (and other bodies too) in a more complex system will likely have more interesting orbits.

    "So, what are my odds?"
    At the time of this writing (2017. March 23), Commanders have uploaded to EDDN 27,832 natural (non-terraformed) Earth-likes in 12,583,833 uninhabited systems. Calculating from those, and ignoring the scenarios of systems with multiple Earth-likes, if you pick a destination system entirely at random, you'd have a 0.22% probability of finding an Earth-like world there. Doesn't sound good, does it?
    However, keep in mind that you can have a higher probability around in systems more likely to contain Earth-likes. (Rough approximations could point to a 2% probability around the most likely candidates.) Also, as long as the chance isn't zero, given enough time spent, you will eventually find what you're looking for.
    Of course, these are just how probabilities are: you might stumble upon three Earth-likes in three systems in quick succession, or you might end up having visited 500 systems and found no pale blue dots. If it's any comfort, know that both have happened to other Commanders before. If you haven't found what you're looking for, you'll just have to keep looking.

    Now that you've (hopefully) decided what to look for, let's see some tips on how to recognize Earth-likes on the system map.
    They are blue.

    Of course, so are water worlds, and some high metal content planets in orbit of class A stars, so that's very not helpful.

    So, let's extend it: they are blue, and have patches of green on them. Water worlds are entirely covered by water (now), while Earth-like worlds have landmasses. Some have only a few small continents, but others can be mostly covered in land and have only a few seas. But if it's blue and green, then congratulations! You've found one.
    Also, Earth-like Worlds are a "special" shade of blue. With practice, you'll be able to recognize it.

    However, note that the light of different kinds of parent stars will give these colours some hues. Most notably, carbon stars will colour them slightly green (example, and another example), while red dwarf stars will give them a red hue (example).

    If after all this, you'd still like to see some examples of how actual Earth-like worlds look in-game, the ELW list has literally thousands of example screenshots. Look at enough of them, and you will go mad like I did get a pretty good feel of what they might look like. Should you be in doubt, it's always best to go investigate. Also, there is another way...

    New in 2.3: you can now also identify Earth-like worlds based on their hologram icon that shows up when you target them. Previously, they shared the same icon with other types of worlds: now, they only share it with ammonia worlds. You can see all the examples on this sheet, courtesy of Radio Sidewinder. So if you're unsure about whether or not your target is an ELW, there is now also this method of visual verification. But there's more...

    Before you travel there and scan the planet, you can confirm its type by listening to its sound. No, I'm not making this up.
    You see, when you zoom in on planets in the system map, the background music changes depending on what type of planet it is. Thankfully, the sound of ELW-s is rather unique, so it's not too difficult to tell them apart from others. Listen for the sound of birds chirping.

    For this, make sure your audio is set up correctly: make sure music is unmuted, and stellar cartography music is on. Also, if you have headphones, I recommend setting the "Optimise for" option to "Night Time". Unless you have an expensive, high quality headphone setup.
    You can find a sample of how it should sound like here, and I also recommend reading the guide to planet sounds if you wish to know more.

    You can test if your setup is working correctly by calling up the system map for a known Earth-like planet - for example, like Earth in Sol. They don't get more Earth-like than that!

    "I've found an Earth-like world and scanned it, what now?"
    First off, if it has any moons, do scan them too! Especially if it has more than one, which is very rare. When you submit your find to various databases, having the scan data of the moons will be important too. Plus you want your first discovery tag on the moons too, don't you?
    It's also nice to check the distances of the moons from the planet, and if they are landable, then to check the view as well.

    I'd also recommend looking up the exact star types of the stars in the system, which is useful information for the list. In case you don't know how to do this: go to the galaxy map, and click the info tab. That will list the exact star types of all the stars in the system. (example) Write these down, or make a screenshot, and fill the info in later. For example, when making a submission with EDJP.

    We also used to note down the distance to Sol in earlier releases, but since 2.1, the game stores the system's exact coordinates inside the log files, and now the journal.

    "Alright, I've done all that, what to do now?"
    Fly around, admire your new planet, make lots of screenies with your ship or your Commander in front of the ELW? It's up to you, really. I'd just want to make note of one thing: don't submit the system / planet info to any public databases before you sell the data and get your first discoverer tag on the body! Although I don't think it has happened yet, in theory people could automatically scrape these databases for new untagged finds, and nab them before you get back to and sell the data. It's not like submitting the data would be urgent anyway. So, if you're using any utilities that automatically upload data to public databases, I recommend turning that feature off, and doing the upload only after you've tagged your finds.

    Also, I would like it if you posted your finds in the List of Earth-like worlds too. It doesn't have as many ELW-s in it as EDDB has, but it does contain more info on them, as the journal doesn't contain as much info as screenshots (and data from players) do. We are working on building a more detailed database from OCR-ing the screenshots there as well, and uploading your journal data via EDJP will help with this too.

    That's around all there is to know at the moment then. Thanks for reading!

    Sources and credits:
    - Jackie Silver and others for their work on deciphering how system names are generated
    - Akira Masakari for the part about planet sounds
    - and of course, everyone who contributed to the ELW list, as the vast majority of the above is based on their data
    - not used here per se, but worth looking at nonetheless: Orvidius' map charts generated from EDDN data

  2. #2
    I have to admit, somewhere along the line I developed a preference for checking out K stars. Why? Because I looked at your spreadsheet of most common discoveries...

    Note: looking at this article I'm beginning to wonder if Ks are no longer the thing to check. But Ks did look favorable at some point...

  3. #3
    A great guide, sterling work. I do wonder where you get the energy from Marx to be so prolific with all the various plates you seem to be able to keep spinning at the same time

  4. #4
    Originally Posted by GregMalcolm View Post (Source)
    I have to admit, somewhere along the line I developed a preference for checking out K stars. Why? Because I looked at your spreadsheet of most common discoveries...

    Note: looking at this article I'm beginning to wonder if Ks are no longer the thing to check. But Ks did look favorable at some point...
    I'll usually hit D mass K stars when i see them. But mostly I keep them filtered out (same with G stars)
    What I've been doing is bookmarking a destination then plotting and "select" jumping IE: re-plotting to systems with D mass. It's slow but I'm fine with the style.

    Nice Guide Marx.
    I'm looking forward to contributing my finds when I get back. Up to 111 1st discovered so far.. And so far I've only lost 1 to another commander.

  5. #5
    Originally Posted by osser View Post (Source)
    And so far I've only lost 1 to another commander.
    Three of mine that were unclaimed when I found them had been tagged by the time I got back. All were in the bit of my route that overlapped the DWE route, funnily enough...

  6. #6
    Great guide!
    Personally, I'm up to 28 lifetime first discoveries now, with a few "special-snowflake" finds (such as a ringed ELW around an NS and an ELW in a BH system). Although, I struggle to explain how 3/28 of my ELW's have been ringed, which is apparently a very high rate. Perhaps you could add a section on ringed ELW's to the guide.

  7. #7
    Some of my nice rare finds:
    1) ELW orbiting a T-Tauri Star.
    2) ELW orbiting a B Star. (not as a moon)
    3) ELW orbiting a Herbig Star.
    4) ELW orbiting a combo M and T (not T-Tauri)
    5) 2 ELW's orbiting a L Star.

    I'm big on the rare finds.

  8. #8
    @ GregMalcolm: bear in mind that the list does not show how many systems Commanders have visited in total! ELW-s around K stars are only numerous there because the stars themselves are quite frequent across the galaxy. However, based on data from players who did record how many, and what kind of systems they have visited, it looks like the odds around K stars aren't very good. It's just that they are numerous throughout the galaxy, so Commanders are likely to come across them. Then they only report the system bearing the ELW, and not the dozens of other similar ones that didn't have one.

    In general, the rule seems to be that more luminous stars are better, which makes sense: the wider the habitable zone, the better the chances there'll be suitable planets in it. But there are some major holes in this theory. First, with class A stars, the ELW count drops very sharply with increasing luminosity. The cause is probably somewhere in planet formation: there is probably such a thing as "too hot".

    There is also that in the case of class G stars (let's not forget, our own Sol is this!), ELW count slightly decreases with higher luminosities. This might be due to planet formation too: class G stars are slightly infamous for being in both mass code C and D systems. If (pretty big if!) there is a difference in planet formation between those too, then that could account for why ELW count decreases with increasing luminosity. But the ELW-bearing systems with class G main stars are split mostly evenly between code C and D... More investigation would be needed.

    Regardless, I've always found it interesting how class G main stars aren't terribly good candidates for finding Earth-like worlds, especially considering that our own Sol is that. I wonder if this would be a failure of the Stellar Forge, or if it would actually be this way in real life too. But it's not like we have discovered any Earth-like exoplanets, just good candidates which might or might not be that. (See TRAPPIST-1.)

    @ Pinda Gupta: Ringed ones? This is just my observation and not hard evidence, but to me, it seems like there are "ringed" systems: systems which have many more ringed bodies than others do. ELW-s in such places would be more likely to be ringed, and if you take a look at the screenshots of ringed ELW-s, you'll notice quite a few such places. The question is, how to find similar systems, based on the galaxy map? To that, I currently have no answer. We'd probably need considerably more data on ringed ELW-s, and collecting data on "ringed" systems too.
    And yep, that is a high personal rate. I have 180 first discoveries, and two of those are ringed, if memory serves. Hm, I'll probably add such a count to the list too.

  9. #9
    Great guide, marx! Have some virtual rep for all the trouble you went through for making this guide.
    And to all explorers; may you find many of these rare beauties!

  10. #10
    I've updated this guide a bit, since the 2.3 patch brought something new: being able to tell whether a planet is an ELW or not based on its hologram icon when you have it targeted. Of course, the icon is still shared with ammonia worlds, but it's not like the two are difficult to tell apart. For a quick reference, see this sheet.

  11. #11
    So wait, earthlike worlds around G stars are rarer than ELWs around A and F stars? That makes no sense. A and F stars have shorter lifespans than G, K and M stars (most F stars would be leaving their main sequence and becoming giants in the 4 billion years it's take complex life to arise on Earth) - the chance of finding a stable habitable environment should be higher around the latter.

  12. #12
    Originally Posted by malenfant View Post (Source)
    So wait, earthlike worlds around G stars are rarer than ELWs around A and F stars? That makes no sense. A and F stars have shorter lifespans than G, K and M stars (most F stars would be leaving their main sequence and becoming giants in the 4 billion years it's take complex life to arise on Earth) - the chance of finding a stable habitable environment should be higher around the latter.
    It might have taken four billion years for complex life to arise on Earth, but according to the game's terminology, complex life is not a requirement for the planet to be Earth-like. There's a pretty strict set of criteria, but it basically boils down to "humans can survive on the surface unaided". There might not necessarily be complex life on the ELW; if memory serves, in one of the recent livestreams the devs even mentioned this.

    But yeah, the Stellar Forge can produce some weird-looking stuff. I always wonder if the next time they update it for Earth-likes, we won't have to remove a lot of ELWs from the list.

  13. #13
    From my 130ish, Yeah G's are about on par with A's.
    F's and K's are much more prevalent.
    And don't discount those C mass systems. They have them.

    Marx I'll be in contact soon.

  14. #14
    I read this and use it. Found ELW unexplored in first try!

  15. #15
    Originally Posted by osser View Post (Source)
    From my 130ish, Yeah G's are about on par with A's.
    F's and K's are much more prevalent.
    And don't discount those C mass systems. They have them.

    Marx I'll be in contact soon.
    Yeah, there is one thing about mass code C systems on the list: several Commanders have done extensive surveys of mass code D subsectors, so that code is a bit overrepresented on the list. However, even before they did, the ratio was something like 60% code D, 30% code C. So the highest chances appear to be there, and in general, the guiding principle seems to be: the more luminous the star, the wider the habitable band, the better. However, class B stars are too hot, and their habitable zones appear to be too far out for ELWs to frequently form there (but they still do) - and for class O, they are too far out for any ELWs to appear.

    And righto, looking forward to your finds!

    Originally Posted by Prorokpl View Post (Source)
    I read this and use it. Found ELW unexplored in first try!
    Hehe, can't ask for better advertisement than that. Of course, you also got lucky, but hey, glad I could help!

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