Discovering—New Earth Like Planets ~ Kwentology


Image of Planet Like Earth

This artist's concept provided by NASA on April 18, 2013, depicts NASA's Kepler misssion's smallest habitable zone planet.

How Do We Know If There's Another Earth Out There?

It took observers thousands of years to discover all the planets in our solar system. But no one knew if any planets circled other stars—until 1995. That's when the first exoplanets were found. An exoplanet is a planet that orbits a star other than our own star, the sun. Since then, nearly 500 more exoplanets have been found.

Could there be life on one of these exoplanets? The answer so far is maybe. Astronomers may have found one Earth-size planet in a star's "Goldilocks region." In this zone, things are not too hot, not too cold, but just right for life. Scientists are questioning whether this planet could harbor life. In the meantime, they keep looking. There so many stars out there, there must be warm, watery Earth-like life on one of those worlds.

Image of My Fictional Solar System by Thylings

Goldilocks Worlds: Where Things Are Just Right for Life

The Artist's Eye

This Earth-like world does not exists, but similar ones are probably out there.

Too Close—The Hot Zone

If a planet gets too close to a star, the heat can make all its water boil off, as happened to Mercury. The star can also warm a planet's surface to deadly temperatures, which was the fate of Venus.

Too Far—The Cold Zone

Space is a cold place. A planet doesn't have to be too far from its sun to become frigid and have its water freeze solid. Atmosphere holds in heat, and Mars might be a living world today if it had kept its atmosphere.

Just Right—Habitable Goldilocks Zone

Earth exists in the livable (Goldilocks) zone, where plenty of liquid water can be present. There may be different forms of life on other planets that orbit in a Goldilocks zone.

Exo-llent Search!

For most of human history, we've known only about the planets that circle our sun. In the past 20 years, scientists have found 492 other planets orbiting distant stars. Most are giants compared with Earth. But new ways of searching are making it easier to find smaller ones—the kind where life may exist.

Exoplanets Discovered

31 Exoplanets in Pre-2000
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148 Exoplanets Around Year 2000 to 2005
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313 Exoplanets Around Year 2006 to 2011
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Total: 492*
Possible Earth-like worlds found so far: 1

*As of January 1, 2011

Source: The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, with data from California & Carnegie Planet Search, Geneva Extrasolar Search Program, University of Texas, and others.

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