Kepler Telescope Images Help Scientists Find New ‘Earth-Like’ Planets!

Kepler Telescope Images Help Scientists Find New ‘Earth-Like’ Planets!

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The boundary breaking Kepler telescope...

The boundary breaking Kepler telescope…

The ABC was recently reporting on some interesting developments out in the deepest recesses of space. It turns out that a team from the ANU has found a way to predict the number of planets which are earth-like in their make up and atmospheric contents. The new method will surely change the way we conceive of our own place within the cosmos.

The team, from the Australian National University in Canberra, has set about analysing data sent back from the Kepler space telescope. In the images, the scientists noted that there was a “Goldilocks zone” in which planets were actively orbiting stars. This is in addition to the requirements that the planet be located at an ideal distance from the star (in order to sustain water) and simultaneously not too far away (so the planet isn’t icy).

Associate Professor Charley Lineweaver and PhD student Tim Bovaird were responsible for the initial application of old scientific methods to the new data. Speaking to the ABC, Prof. Lineweaver explained their method: “We looked at the sub-set of stars that have multiple planets, not just one or two, and among those we looked for specific pattern called the Titius-Bode relation and we found that these exoplanet systems fit the relation better than our solar system does. So based on that we made predictions about where other planets would be if this pattern can be successfully extrapolated beyond what is normally seen.”

Hoping to cut through the scientific fog, Associate Professor Lineweaver cut to the rational core of the findings. “[Life is] not just a rare occurrence and it is not just in our galaxy. Essentially our result says almost every single star will have a planet or two in the habitable zone around it. The problem is our techniques to detect planets have very strong biases against being able to find planets in the habitable zone and that’s why this new technique, which is really an ancient technique that we have modified, is necessary to make this type of claim.”

And what is the likelihood of developed life on these planets? “One theory is the emergence of life is just a rare event, another could be that once you develop life and it becomes intelligent then you kill yourself, it’s called a self-destruction bottleneck,” Associate Professor Lineweaver hypothesised. “Or that human-like intelligence is a rare thing, and it could all be viral or bacterial life, and it doesn’t evolve towards technological intelligence.”

The fascinating research will be eventually see publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. But whatever the outcome, it’s clear that this is a significant and highly valuable breakthrough which has the potential to dramatically alter our fate as a species. Let’s hope we can make it through our own ‘self-destruction bottleneck’ and into a new era of awareness and interaction with the wider universe.


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