Finding life on alien worlds? PBS Nova's Exoplanet Lab game tells you how!

Cats are looking for a new extra-terrestrial home in a new game from PBS.
Cats are looking for a new extra-terrestrial home in a new game from PBS. (Image credit: NOVA Labs/PBS)

Rescue aliens and  cats in distress while learning about the search for life on alien worlds in a new game from PBS!

Part of the science series NOVA, the "Exoplanet Lab" game helps tweens and young teens to better understand what makes exoplanets habitable like Earth. Players will learn about the conditions that allow exoplanets to have liquid water, which is essential for life as we know it to exist, NOVA said in a statement emailed to

The game is free to play and available immediately in your web browser. Tailored training modules will take players through the journey of learning how to find and characterize exoplanets throughout the galaxy, and how to compare their conditions to those on Earth.. 

Related: 10 exoplanets that could host alien life 

"Through a series of videos and simulation tools, players — called 'NOVAnauts' in the game — learn about the conditions that make Earth suitable for life, and what to look for in other, distant star systems in our Milky Way galaxy," NOVA said in the statement. 

"Astrophysicists and astronomers Moiya McTier, Clara Sousa-Silva, Anjali Tripathi, Theron Carmichael, and David Berardo make appearances to explain the real techniques that are being modeled in the game."

Players will then embark on a series of missions mimicking the work of real scientists "to find new homes for fictional alien species," the statement added.

In the first mission,players will meet the fictional Plantae, described as "sentient photosynthetic creatures" that are looking to settle in a new world rich in carbon dioxide. Players will need  to figure out the volume, mass and atmospheric composition of exoplanets to ensure the new homes can sustain the aliens.

A few of the aliens you'll encounter in the NOVA Exoplanet Lab. (Image credit: NOVA Labs/PBS)

Subsequent missions cover tidally locked planets (planets with one side perpetually facing their star) and a request from Earth's cats to find a planet where they can rule without the bother of living with dogs or humans. Keep your eye out for bonus missions including squid-like and sloth-like alien creatures. All exoplanet profiles are logged in a visual journal for players.

"We're big believers in playful learning, giving students opportunities to think like scientists while also having some fun," David Condon, NOVA Labs editorial director, said in the statement. "Exoplanets are incredibly cool, and I think we've found a great way to integrate a lot of science into a very engaging narrative with this game."

Previously,  NOVA labs has tackled solar weather predictions with its Sun Lab game and the development of renewable energy with the game Energy Lab.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: