Sunday, December 25, 2011

Two Earth-sized planets are discovered--but they're too hot to support life

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

Astronomers working with NASA's Kepler mission recently discovered a planet similar to Earth, but too big to support life. Now, they've discovered two planets in the same solar system that are the right size to support life, but are too hot. As reported by Natalie Stechyson of Postmedia News on December 20, 2011:

The quest to find alien life took a step forward Tuesday as the discovery of the first Earth-sized planets was made public.

The two planets, part of the newly discovered Kepler-20 solar system, are the smallest discovered to date. They were spotted as part of NASA's Kepler mission, which was designed to survey our region of the Milky Way to try to identify habitable planets.

"For the first time, we've found honest-to-God, Earth-sized planets. That's never been done before," said David Charbonneau, a professor of Astronomy at Harvard University who was involved in the research...

..."What we ultimately want to do is find planets that might have life on them. To find a planet that's habitable, you need a planet that's roughly the same size as the Earth," Charbonneau said.

But the planets also have to be the right temperature, and these are too hot. Two weeks ago, the Kepler team announced the discovery of another planet that was just the right temperature for life, but too big.

"We're looking for a Goldilocks-type planet," Charbonneau quipped, meaning a celestial body that orbits its star at a distance that is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to be present.

The newest discovery shows that the Kepler team has the ability to find an "Earth twin" and needs to just push out to find planets further from their stars, Charbonneau said.

The two rocky planets - Kepler 20e and Kepler 20f - are part of a five-planet solar system located about 1,000 light years away. The other three planets are large and gaseous. Research on the project began in May 2009.

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