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Earth’s Goldilock’s Twin Found

Since powerful telescopes have orbited the earth scientists and researchers have been in search of what they call “goldilocks planets”.

A goldilocks planet is a planet that is just the right temperate for liquid water to be present and in proper relation with a star.  The earth has been the only goldilocks planet that scientists have known about until recently.

Over the years dozens of these planets have been found, and now one was recently discovered that is more similar to earth than anything anyone has ever seen.

According to Space.com:

“A possible alien planet discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope is the most Earth-like world yet detected beyond our solar system, scientists say.

With a radius that is just 1.5 times that of Earth, the potential planet is a so-called “super-Earth,” meaning it is just slightly larger than the Earth. The candidate planet orbits a star similar to the sun at a distance that falls within the “habitable zone” — the region where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. Scientists say the planet, if confirmed, could be a prime candidate to host alien life.

“This was very exciting because it’s our fist habitable-zone super Earth around a sun-type star,” astronomer Natalie Batalha, a Kepler co-investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said Tuesday (Jan. 8) here at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.”

The find could be the closest so far to an Earth twin beyond the solar system, she said. The object’s host star is a G-type star just slightly cooler than our own sun.

“It’s orbiting a star that’s very much like our sun,” Batalha added. “Previously the ones we saw were orbiting other types of stars.”

The object takes 242 days to orbit its star (compared to Earth’s 365 days) and is about three-quarters of the Earth-sun distance from its parent. The Earth orbits 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from the sun on average, a distance known as 1 astronomical unit.

“It’s a big deal,” astrophysicist Mario Livio, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, told SPACE.com. “It’s definitely a good candidate for life.”

Based on its characteristics, the possible planet may or may not be rocky, but it certainly has the possibility of liquid water.

“Maybe there’s no land life, but perhaps very clever dolphins,” Livio joked.

The article also said that:

“The possible planet is called KOI 172.02 (KOI stands for Kepler Object of Interest, a designation assigned to all planet candidates found by the telescope until they are confirmed as planets). The discovery was announced at the meeting Monday (Jan. 7) by Christopher Burke of the SETI Institute as part of a batch of 461 new planet candidates found by Kepler.

Kepler finds potential planets by looking for periodic dips in the brightness of stars caused by planets passing in front of them, blocking some of their light. Astronomers have multiple ways to confirm that these candidates are actual planets, such as looking for small variations in the timing of the planets’ passes in front of stars caused by the gravitational tug of other planets in the system.

Finding a planet that might be able to support water and human life is quite a milestone but apparently all those other planets aren’t just wasted space.  We now know that it is possible for other forms of biological life to life on planets that be considered harsh environments by our standards. The definition of what a “life supporting planet” was completely changed just months after the discovery of the first goldilocks planet.

On December 2nd 2010 NASA held a press conference announcing that they discovered a microorganism that has DNA completely different from any creature ever seen by humans.  It was found in Mono Lake in California which is mostly toxic to humans because of high levels of harsh chemicals in the water including arsenic.  However, this microorganism actually flourishes in arsenic and needs arsenic to survive much like we need oxygen to survive.

These harsh conditions can be handled by this microorganism so well because parts of their DNA are composed of arsenic much like our DNA is composed of hydrogen and other familiar particles.  The implications that this finding has in the search for extraterrestrial life is astonishing.

If it is possible for life to develop in these kinds of conditions then that means that it is possible for life to develop on almost any planet.  Life would be able to develop in environments that would be toxic to humans by just having a different compound in their DNA.  Before this discovery scientists didn’t even know that this was possible.

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