stars, life zones, and billions of planets
famous Canadian Science Fiction novelist
Mark A. Carter has reprinted an article here for your
edification. It is scientific
vindication for Science Fiction
writers who have written about alien life on other worlds but
have been dismissed, maligned,
and ridiculed as writing
fantasy and improbable possibilities.
of Earth, Kepler-62 e, and Kepler-62 f are provided courtesy
of PHL - Mapping the Habitable Universe.
© The Planetary Habitability Laboratory, phl.upr.edu, University
of Puerto Rico at Arecibo.
And, in part,
it is scientific vindication for Jill
Tartar and the team at SETI
who have been ridiculed by mainstream scientists for
decades yet have labored relentlessly in the belief that life
exists everywhere out there in the
Milky Way and possibly, according to the
Drake Equation, some of that life may actually be intelligent
or even advanced.
and the Drake Equation.
The latest calculation,
not estimation, indicates that every star has planets and one
in five of the stars have Earth-like
planets in a habitable zone.
That figure alone is amazing beyond belief.
Space operas like Isaac Asimov's
1951 novel Foundation,
Gene Roddenberry's 1966-69 TV series
Star Trek, and George
Lucas' 1977 film Star Wars
are to be applauded for their
Science Fiction insight. Again, the predictive nature
of Science Fiction has come
Tartar and her associates, so far, have not heard from
E.T. But they will eventually.
Jill may not be around to
witness first contact.
It may occur one hundred years
from now. But by then, we will already be out there, given the
recent breakthrough in warp drive
thinking by Harold G. White
at NASA. And we will
be colonizing systems everywhere that harbor hospitable
short term, let it sink in: We are not alone.
abound. When we go out there and encounter
xenophobic others, won't we be considered by them to
be the aliens especially if we blindly attempt to colonize their
Will we develop
a Prime Directive not
to interfere with other worlds that have life, as first mentioned
in Star Trek? It would
be a good idea.
Will we colonize
other worlds and meld into the indigenous population, as the
Spanish did in
Central America and as the
French did in North America?
Will we travel
to other worlds as active aggressors or as passive settlers?
Will we travel
to other worlds in search of raw materials and commit genocide,
in the name of profit, as James Cameron
showed in his 2009
All of these
questions and others must be asked before we venture to the stars.
But as Ray Bradbury wrote
in his 1951 book of short
stories entitled The Illustrated
man tries to see beyond his own time he must face questions for
which there cannot yet be absolute answers."
news is extraordinary. We are unquestionably not alone in the
galaxy or in the universe. But serious questions confront us.
In the next few decades we will be
warp capable and be out there.
And we have to travel out there with a set of rules.
Now is the time to grow up, as Arthur
C. Clarke wrote in his 1953
novel Childhood's End.
If we do not, perhaps Gort
will pay us a visit. As Klaatu
states at the end of the 1951
film The Day the Earth
is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you
threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be
reduced to a burned-out cinder."
But I'm getting
ahead of myself. Enjoy the article.
8.8 Billion Earth-Size, Just-Right Planets
November 4, 2013 (AP)
SETH BORENSTEIN AP Science Writer
Space is vast,
but it may not be so lonely after all: A study finds the
Milky Way is teeming with
billions of planets that are about the size of
Earth, orbit stars just like our sun, and exist in the
Goldilocks zone - not too
hot and not too cold for life.
NASA data have calculated
for the first time that in our galaxy alone, there are at least
8.8 billion stars with
Earth-size planets in the
habitable temperature zone.
The study was
published Monday in the journal Proceedings
of the National Academy of Science.
Goldilocks or Habitable Zone
that's more Earth-like planets
than there are people on Earth.
As for what it
says about the odds that there is life somewhere out there, it
means "just in our Milky Way
galaxy alone, that's 8.8 billion throws of the biological dice,"
said study co-author Geoff
Marcy, a longtime planet hunter
from the University of California
The next step,
scientists say, is to look for atmospheres on these planets with
powerful space telescopes that have yet to be launched. That
would yield further clues to whether any of these planets do,
in fact, harbor life.
also raise a blaring question, Marcy
said: "If we aren't alone,
why is there a deafening silence in our Milky Way galaxy from
Milky Way, about 1 in 5
stars that are like our sun in size, color and age have planets
that are roughly Earth's size
and are in the habitable zone
where life-crucial water can
be liquid, according to intricate calculations based on four
years of observations from NASA's
now-crippled Kepler telescope.
If people on Earth could only travel in deep space, you'd probably
see a lot of traffic jams," Bill Borucki, NASA's
chief Kepler scientist, joked
Kepler telescope peered at
42,000 stars, examining just a tiny slice of our galaxy
to see how many planets like Earth
are out there. Scientists then extrapolated that figure
to the rest of the galaxy, which has
hundreds of billions
For the first
time, scientists calculated - not estimated - what percent of
stars that are just like our sun have planets similar to Earth:
22 percent, with a margin
of error of plus or minus 8
scientist Natalie Batalha
said there is still more data to pore over before this
can be considered a final figure.
There are about
200 billion stars in our galaxy,
with 40 billion of them like
our sun, Marcy said. One of
his co-authors put the number of sun-like
stars closer to 50 billion,
meaning there would be at least
11 billion planets like ours.
on the 1-in-5 estimate, the closest Earth-size planet that is
in the habitable temperature zone and circles a sun-like star
is probably within 70 trillion miles of Earth," Marcy
8.8 billion Earth-size planets figure is only a start.
That's because scientists were looking only at
sun-like stars, which are not the most common stars.
An earlier study found that 15
percent of the more common red dwarf
stars have Earth-size
planets that are close-in
enough to be in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold
those together and that's probably 40 billion right-size, right-place
planets," Marcy said.
And that's just
our galaxy. There are billions
of other galaxies.
a Kepler science conference
Monday said they have found 833
new candidate planets with the space telescope, bringing the
total of planets they've spotted to
3,538, but most aren't candidates for life.
has identified only 10 planets
that are about Earth's
size circling sun-like stars
and are in the habitable zone,
including one called Kepler 69-c.
Because there are probably hundreds
of planets missed for every one found, the study did
intricate extrapolations to come up with the
22 percent figure - a calculation that outside scientists
say is fair.
they've done looks legitimate," said
MIT astronomer Sara Seager.