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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Trillions of Earth-like Planets in Universe?

The universe is teaming with trillions of Earth-like planets bearing alien life forms with many harboring possible civilizations thousands of years more advanced than ours says astrophysicist and author Alan P. Boss of the Carnegie Institute in Washington [video].

"I suspect virtually every star when you look up at the night sky has an Earth-like world around it." These "exoplanets" are mainly gas giants like Jupiter but they should include some super-Earths a few times larger than ours," Dr. Boss recently said recently of the more than 340 known planets orbiting neighboring stars with many more expected to be found by the Kepler spacecraft to be launched this year.

Dr. Boss latest book, The Crowded Universe, traces the efforts past, present and coming, in the detection of exoplanets and the race to find life in space. More from Alan Boyle and Jeff Foust on the Boss book. More from The Times of London and the BBC on the theory of Dr. Boss.


Terence Clark said...

I think it is totally rational to assume that rocky worlds are common outside of our solar system. Given that we've found a number of planets so far and potentially a rocky one, and given that we've seen protoplanetary disks out there, the probabilities of Earth-like world formation are at least calculable.

My only issue with Boss' statement is the certainty with which he puts life on them.

I personally believe he's right. But it's just that, a personal belief. We don't know exactly what life would look like on another planet as far as spectral signatures so we're not even sure we'd know it if we saw it, and that's assuming life only works the way we've seen it.

And since we've yet to find another planet that we know harbors life with any certainty, we're left to run statistics based on the formation of life.

But again here, we've yet to put our finger on the full mechanism for abiogenesis so running statistics on its probability is inherently problematic.

His opinion is definitely a valued one. And again, I actually agree with him. But it's opinion, and nothing more.

Swampie said...

common sense tells me when a solar system begins unless a binary system is created you will have a star and a super planet like a Jupiter a good distance from the star. I'd think too close and much of it's early mass would fall into the star.

The smaller planets between the super planet and the star would be rock type planets. Thinking here is a gas like planet too close to the sun would lose the gravitational battle.

Rock like substances, heavy elements would gather and form inner planets. Ice like meteorites would bring water and gas substances. The atmosphere formed would be held if the planet is dense enough.

I think our solar system formation is very common. Not rare at all. Trillions of earth like worlds is a great number.

Finding intelligent life is made more difficult by two measurements - distance and time.

Think many worlds with intelligent life face a critical time when they change their own planet through industrial periods. Earth's 5,000 to 10,000 years of intelligent life is nothing to the billions of years it takes for it to form.

Andy55 said...

It is highly probable that life exists in other earth-like planets than ours. What would determine how the life forms look like would be down to both major and even minor differences between these alien worlds and ours, for e.g the composition of the atmosphere, the strength of the planets gravity, the respective distances from their star. Even the nature of the life giving star could affect the way in which this alien life manifests itself.

Andy55 said...

I would like to comment listing facts which anyone could examine step-wise (1)There are probably hundreds of millions of stars like ours, maybe more. (2)Its probable that a star dosnt necessarily have to be like ours to support intelligent multicellular humanoid life, although it is absolutely necessary for that life to exist within a goldilocks zone.(3)Looking at a Star in its red giant phase could be that we are looking at the total anihillation of whole inhabited planets and millions of yrs of knowledge, culture and technology.(4)Because all stars have a life-span, its a race against time for any intelligent life to colonise more habitable places. (5) Not all would make it. Your star has to burn long enough to ensure a speices evolves to the stage where they can escape the red giant phase. We humans have less than 4.5 billion years to do this.(6)Millions of stars have come and gone.(7)The sheer distances between our Earth and other Earth-like places mean we may never see another form of life if we dont develope the technology to go much faster in space.(to mention a few obstacles)(8) If we assume that there was intelligent life that had evolved far ahead of us, you have to say with all certainty that they have already acheived the stage of colonization.This would happen to humans when over millions of years, our life giving Sun begins to show its true hand.