earthlike planet

It’s a perennial question: Are there other Earth-like planets – or planets full of life – out there?

New research suggests that Earth-like planets are actually pretty common, according to an analysis of the results of Nasa’s Kepler mission. As the diameter of a planet decreases, its frequency increases. Once the diameter reaches twice the diameter of Earth, it remains about the same.

If you love astronomy like we do, then this news should be exciting. The research focused on Earth-like stars in a similar orbit as Mercury, but the article noted that “further evidence suggests that the fraction of stars having planets the size of Earth or slightly bigger orbiting within Earth-like orbits may amount to 50 percent.”

This is timely news, especially as the availability of resources on our planet becomes more worrisome. We finally have new planets for us humans to dominate and exploit of resources. We can skip any lessons in moderation — our galaxy is a treasure trove of planets waiting to be harvested!

Not to mention all of the food. Orion’s baked space-beef. Soda made from corn starch from the corn planet Gliese 876 d.

And it only gets better if there is intelligent life. Let’s get some space wars going on. Finally something to unite the human race: killing other intelligent life. Think of the economic and social benefits of a totally awesome space war.

“The Earth Empire.” We like the sound of that.

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outer space

At least, some people don’t think so. UC Berkeley astronomers Andrew Howard and Geoffrey Marcy believe that our fair planet is far from being one of a kind — in fact, their research claims that there are more than just a few other Earth-size planets out there in the ether.

The two are taking into account the “galactic preference for smaller planets” (think Earth and Venus versus a big ol’ thing like Jupiter) and have gone on to suggest that, “almost one quarter of the stars similar to our sun have Earth-size planets orbiting them.” Considering that heliocentrism has really only been accepted for the past few centuries, Howard and Marcy’s work just goes to show how far we’ve come from thinking that we were at the center of the universe and all that jazz.

Before you get too excited and start looking for your long-lost twin (only a few trillion light-years away!), this doesn’t necessarily mean that these planets share any of Earth’s other super cool (and as of now, unique) characteristics — an optimal distance from the sun, clouds that don’t kill you with their toxicity, intelligent life … But, hey, it sure is fun to imagine that maybe they could.

Image Source: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center under Creative Commons
Galaxy May Have Gobs of Earth-Size Planets [The Washington Post]