From the astronomy experts at Cape Canaveral, Florida, comes news that Earthlike worlds may be closer and more numerous than they ever imagined. Based on new findings from NASA’s Kepler space telescope that was launched in 2009, the discovery has gotten the science and astronomy community quite excited.
To put things in perspective, if we were to shrink the galaxy down to the same size as the United States, then the distance would be about the same as walking across New York City’s Central Park. That’s a pretty small distance, comparatively speaking. Almost close enough to zoom over to borrow the proverbial cup of intergalactic sugar.
Astronomy experts have reported that the closest planet most similar to Earth is a mere 13 light years away. Galactically speaking-that’s practically next door! Although they’ve not exactly found this mystery planet yet, they do believe it should be possible to find it based on their study of red dwarf stars. These dwarf red stars are the most common ones in the Milky Way and number close to 75 billion. That’s quite a few stars to study.
Teams from the Harvard-Smith Center for Astrophysics have estimated that about 6 percent of those billions of red stars may possibly have these Earthlike planets. This fact alone should simplify the search for extraterrestrials. How do they determine if what they see is a planet or not? To qualify, the entity must be roughly the same size as Earth and get as much light from its star as Earth gets from the sun.
However, these candidates for planethood are distinctly different from Earth because of the differences between a red star and our sun. Because of the size of the red dwarf stars, these potentially Earthlike planets would need to orbit much closer to the star than Earth does to the sun. Experts believe the planets would have a rocky surface but their atmospheres could most likely support some type of life forms. Because the red dwarf stars can be quite old, many older than Earth’s sun, these potentially similar planets would be older than ours and possibly have more evolved life forms. Compared to the age of 12 billion years for some of the red dwarf stars, our solar system is practically a youngster at 4.5 billion years.
Scientists and astronomers alike are calling the news extraordinarily exciting and hope it will put future researchers and space explorers hot on the trail of locating and closely studying these potential neighbors.