Published: 4:22 PM 2/7/2015
The ingredients for life are plentiful...
By Susan Xu
The search for Earth-like planets has puzzled scientists for years. To date, nearly 1,000 planets in the Milky Way have been discovered, yet only a handful are suggested to be potentially “habitable.” A new groundbreaking, astronomical study, however, is shedding more light on the search – providing a stronger foundation for the assertion that aliens might indeed exist.
According to astrophysicist, Professor Charley Lineweaver, "The ingredients for life are plentiful, and we now know that habitable environments are plentiful."
In order to come to this conclusion, Lineweaver and PhD student, Tim Bovaird, from the Australian National University (ANU) utilized a 200-year-old method known as the Titus-Bode relation, combined with data collected by the Kepler space telescope. Based on their data, the average star – one of nearly 100 billion in our galaxy – has two Earth-size planets. Thus, simple math dictates that up to 200 billion Earth-like planets currently exist in the universe.
If so, where are they? Well according to the research, planets that could potentially harbor life most likely fall within the “goldilocks zone” (neither too hot or too cold). However, because the Kepler telescope collects data by detecting changes in light, it is much more adapt at finding exoplanets that orbit closer to their parent suns, in regions that are too hot to possess liquid water – and therefore, life.
In order to combat this dilemma, researchers utilized the Titius-Bode relation – aka Bode’s Law – to estimate the locations of other planets based on already existing data of inner planets discovered by Kepler. Yet, even if predictions are correct and there are really 200 billion potential Earth-like planets out there, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they all possess life.
After all, "…The universe is not teeming with aliens with human-like intelligence that can build radio telescopes and space ships," admits Professor Lineweaver. "Otherwise we would have seen or heard from them."
"It could be that there is some other bottleneck for the emergence of life that we haven’t worked out yet. Or intelligent civilizations evolve, but then self-destruct."
Whatever the case, given the odds, the chances seem to be in humanity’s favor.