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An Earth-like planet at last?

In “A ‘major milestone’ in search for Earth’s twin” (MSNBC, December 5, 2011), Mike Wall reports

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has confirmed the discovery of its first alien world in its host star’s habitable zone — that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist — and found more than 1,000 new exoplanet candidates, researchers announced Monday.

The potentially habitable alien world, a first for Kepler, orbits a star very much like our own sun. The discovery brings scientists one step closer to finding a planet like our own — one that could conceivably harbor life, scientists said.

“We’re getting closer and closer to discovering the so-called ‘Goldilocks planet,’” Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said during a news conference on Monday.

Interesting:

Kepler will be making observations for a while yet to come; its nominal mission is set to end in November 2012, but the Kepler team is preparing a proposal to extend the instrument’s operations for another year or more.

Kepler’s finds should only get more exciting as time goes on, researchers say.

Okay. Got it.

See also: Exoplanets: Could they support life that has a different chemical composition?

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8 Responses to An Earth-like planet at last?

  1. Very cool. I wonder if it will be visible to Hubble in order to check for atmospheric makeup during the next transit?

  2. This article says:

    The new planet has a star that’s just a bit bigger and hotter than Earth’s sun, although it’s substantially younger. But because the planet is so close to its star, it’s far too hot to have liquid water, the base for life as we know it. At only 6 million kilometers (about 3.7 million miles) away from the star, Kepler-21b’s temperature is a blistering 2,960 degrees Fahrenheit, according to scientists’ estimates.

  3. Kepler 22b is in the habitable zone but may not be a rock:

    NASA’s Kepler Mission Confirms Its First Planet in Habitable Zone of Sun-like Star

  4. That would be 21b. the new one is 22b:

    (12-05) 12:03 PST MOUNTAIN VIEW — NASA researchers have found the first new planet that bears an uncanny resemblance to Earth, with balmy 72-degree temperatures and, possibly, water.

    The planet sits in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” where the planet could support life and is neither too close nor too far from a sun, researchers said…

    Kepler-22b is 600 light-years away and has a radius about two-and-a-half times the size of Earth, researchers said. It takes 290 days to orbit around its sun, which is slightly smaller and cooler than ours…

  5. Earth’s Twin: What Does “Potentially Habitable” Mean? – December 2011
    Excerpt: Habitability does not imply inhabited. We have more habitable worlds in our own solar system than Kepler-22b: Venus and Mars. Look at them: Venus is a hell, and Mars a freezer, exposed to the ravages of cosmic radiation.
    http://crev.info/content/111205-earths_twin

  6. Neither Mars nor Venus have a 72 degree temperature. I don’t know if that is Fahrenheit or Celsius. Either would be compatible with known forms of life.

  7. as to, The Kepler team realizes that much remains unknown about the new planet, dubbed Kepler-22b, except that its radius is 2.4 times that of Earth. “Scientists don’t yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets,” the article said. Very little, therefore, is empirically known to justify the accompanying artwork of a watery world.

    as to, radius is 2.4 of earth

    If the composition stays the same — and that’s a very big “If”, — then the bigger the planet, the stronger is gravity. Specifically, increasing the radius by a factor F increases mass by F^3, and decreases gravity due to larger distance from the center by F^2. Ergo, given constant composition, gravity is proportional to radius.
    http://www.bautforum.com/showt.....he-gravity

    Yet just varying that one parameter throws all sorts of other things out of whack that make life improbable:

    Astrobiology research is revealing the high specificity and interdependence of the local parameters required for a habitable environment. These two features of the universe make it unlikely that environments significantly different from ours will be as habitable. At the same time, physicists and cosmologists have discovered that a change in a global parameter can have multiple local effects. Therefore, the high specificity and interdependence of local tuning and the multiple effects of global tuning together make it unlikely that our tiny island of habitability is part of an archipelago. Our universe is a small target indeed.
    Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez – P. 625, The Nature of Nature

    i.e. Bacterial Life is far more finicky than NASA would prefer the general public to know,,,

    To give a rough idea of just how finicky, Dr. Ross lists 501 parameters that a planet must get right in order to have have a place for bacterial to survive for even a minimum of 90 days:

    Requirements to sustain bacteria for 90 days or less

    Probability for occurrence of all 501 parameters ? 10-614
    dependency factors estimate ? 10-303
    longevity requirements estimate ? 1022
    Probability for occurrence of all 501 parameters ? 10-333
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe ? 1022
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10311 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the
    universe without invoking divine miracles.
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c....._part3.pdf

    Let’s focus on just a few ‘chemical composition’ requirements for 90 day bacteria:

    amount of iron-60 injected into Earth’s primordial core
    from a nearby type II supernova eruption .03
    thickness of iron-rich silicate layer between the lower
    mantle and outer liquid core .1
    diffusivity of iron-rich silicate layer between the lower
    mantle and outer liquid core .1
    magnetism of iron-rich silicate layer between the lower
    mantle and outer liquid core .1
    elastic anisotropy of iron-rich silicate layer between the
    lower mantle and outer liquid core .1
    Ekman number (relative importance of viscosity to rotation rate)
    for Earth’s interior .03
    quantity of molecular hydrogen formed by the supernova
    eruptions of population III stars (the first born stars)
    in the vicinity of the potential life-support galaxy .01
    quantity of uranium in the inner core .01
    quantity of uranium in the outer core .01
    quantity of uranium in the bottom mantle .01
    quantity of uranium in middle and upper mantle layers .01
    quantity of uranium in the crust .01
    quantity of thorium in the inner core .01
    quantity of thorium in the outer core .01
    quantity of thorium in the bottom mantle .01
    quantity of thorium in the middle and upper mantle layers .01
    quantity of thorium in the crust .01
    quantity of potassium-40 in the bottom mantle .01
    quantity of potassium-40 in the middle and upper mantle layers .01

    And remember that is just a very rough estimate for getting a planet with the right composition to host bacteria for 90 days!!!, As you well know the probability for life ‘randomly happening’ anywhere in this universe by purely materialistic means, even if you had a planet exactly like earth, which is the, ‘elephant in the living room’, underlying assumption in all this, you still, giving the most favorable conditions available, are living in a complete dream world to even begin to entertain the thought that it might have happened by accident!

    further notes:

    Compositions of Extrasolar Planets – July 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,the presumption that extrasolar terrestrial planets will consistently manifest Earth-like chemical compositions is incorrect. Instead, the simulations revealed “a wide variety of resulting planetary compositions.
    http://www.reasons.org/composi.....ar-planets

    Chemical Cycles:
    Long term chemical balance is essential for life on earth. Complex symbiotic chemical cycles keep the amount of elements on the earth surface in relatively perfect balance and thus in steady supply to the higher life forms that depend on them to remain stable. This is absolutely essential for the higher life forms to exist on Earth for any extended period of time.
    http://www.uen.org/themepark/cycles/chemical.shtml

    Stephen Meyer – Proteins by Design – Doing The Math – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6332250/

    Signature in the Cell – Book Review – Ken Peterson
    Excerpt: If we assume some minimally complex cell requires 250 different proteins then the probability of this arrangement happening purely by chance is one in 10 to the 164th multiplied by itself 250 times or one in 10 to the 41,000th power.
    http://www.spectrummagazine.or.....ature_cell

    DID LIFE START BY CHANCE?
    Excerpt: Molecular biophysicist, Horold Morowitz (Yale University), calculated the odds of life beginning under natural conditions (spontaneous generation). He calculated, if one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10^100,000,000,000. You will have probably have trouble imagining a number so large, so Hugh Ross provides us with the following example. If all the matter in the Universe was converted into building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe. Then instead of the odds being 1 in 10^100,000,000,000, they would be 1 in 10^99,999,999,916 (also of note: 1 with 100 billion zeros following would fill approx. 20,000 encyclopedias)
    http://members.tripod.com/~Black_J/chance.html

    i.e. If we want to find life ‘out there’ somewhere, I suggest we look a little higher to the one who created the universe in the first place as well as defeated death, itself, on the cross!

  8. Semi OT:

    NASA’s Voyager Hits New Region at Solar System Edge – December 2011
    Excerpt: “Voyager tells us now that we’re in a stagnation region in the outermost layer of the bubble around our solar system,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “Voyager is showing that what is outside is pushing back. We shouldn’t have long to wait to find out what the space between stars is really like.”,,, Although Voyager 1 is about 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the sun, it is not yet in interstellar space.,,, Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and 2 are in good health. Voyager 2 is 9 billion miles (15 billion kilometers) away from the sun.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....141802.htm

    Cosmic Rays Hit Space Age High
    Excerpt: “The entire solar system from Mercury to Pluto and beyond is surrounded by a bubble of solar magnetism called “the heliosphere.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....133244.htm

    The Protective Boundaries of our Solar System – NASA IBEX – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O0qcQZXpII

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