Science, Science and Tech

Planets discovered like Earth

For years the scientific community has been searching for the possibility of other life in space, and recent searches for a far-off twin of Earth has turned up two of the most suitable candidates yet.

Planet via nasa.orgPhoto: nasa.org

Scientists working on this discovery have told Science magazine that these new worlds are the right size and distance from their parent star, so that you might expect to find liquid water on their surface. These would then hopefully be similar to the conditions found on our own planet, which would make it possible for them to support life.

However, at this current point in time, it is impossible to know for sure as our technology has a long way to advance. Being 1,200 light-years away, these new planets are beyond detailed inspection by current telescope technology.

Although thought to possibly support life similar to that on Earth, they are considered by astronomers to be “super-Earths” because their dimensions are about one-and-a-half times the Earth’s diameter. Despite this, most researchers agree that they are certainly not large enough to be gaseous like Neptune or Jupiter, but that they are thought to either be rocky, like Earth, or composed mostly of ice.

These two planets, otherwise known as planets 62e and 62f, also happen to sit a sufficient distance from their host star that they receive a very tolerable amount of energy. Their host star differs from ours as it is slightly smaller, cooler and older than ours, but this has still produced conditions that are neither too hot, nor too cold; a region of space around a star sometimes referred to as the “Goldilocks Zone”.

The excited team of scientists have stated that all of the above information suggests that, given the right kind of atmosphere, it is very reasonable to speculate that they might be able to sustain water in a liquid state. Being able to contain water in this state is the most generally accepted precondition for life to exist on a planet.

With technology improving at the current, staggering rate, who knows what will be possible in the next few years. Perhaps we will be able to say that we are no longer alone in the universe.

23/04/2013

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