National Geographic on the search for other Earths

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Throughout history, only one Earth has been known to exist in the universe. Soon there may be another. And another. And another. 

So begins a new article by National Geographic on a subject written about here pretty much every few days. The article is four "pages" in length and I'm glad to see that page 3 mentions that red dwarf stars may actually be the best candidates for extrasolar Earths and life elsewhere (for why this may be so, see this article from 2001). A lot of other articles fail to take this into account and thus assume that it will take Kepler three years to find an Earth-like planet when really this isn't true. Well, it's also not true because even an Earth-like planet in exactly the same orbit as ours could technically be observed three times (the minimum required before Kepler announces a discovery) in two years and one day instead of three years, if the planet happened to be just on the verge of passing in front of its star right before Kepler began observations.

It also mentions that telescopes dedicated to finding out more about these planets will likely be developed after their discovery, which I also believe to be true. It's simply too enticing a target to not do so. Telescopes are also generally not all that expensive (compared to probes and especially to manned missions), and even nations far away from developing their own spacefaring capability will certainly be able to build ground-based telescopes that will be able to help out here.


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