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Earth-like planets could be right next door

Posted on Thursday, 7 February, 2013 | Comment icon 34 comments | News tip by: Waspie_Dwarf

Image credit: NASA

Astronomers have determined that the nearest Earth-like planet could be only 13 light years away.

The claim was made based on research using data from NASA's Kepler telescope. Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics determined that six percent of red dwarf stars are home to habitable worlds and worked out the statistical probabilities from that. Red dwarf stars are smaller, colder and dimmer than our Sun, but they are highly abundant with more than 75 million of them in our galaxy alone.

"We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet," said lead author Courtney Dressing. "Now we realize another Earth is probably in our own backyard, waiting to be spotted."

"Dressing culled the Kepler catalog of 158,000 target stars to identify all the red dwarfs."

  View: Full article |  Source: CfA

  Discuss: View comments (34)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #25 Posted by psyche101 on 11 February, 2013, 6:01
We do, not sure why anyone would think otherwise. Around Proxima Centauri? I would not expect something to have a major head-start on us there because It is believed that the Centauri star system formed about the same time as our own Sun at 4.85 × 10[sup]9[/sup] years.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Frank Merton on 11 February, 2013, 6:07
Well we wasted a few billion years; other systems may have evolved intelligence much more quickly.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Zeta Reticulum on 11 February, 2013, 8:19
Agreed, and if Troodon wasnt wiped out in the dinosaur extinction 65 millions years ago, then our planet may well now have an intelligent grey skinned reptillian race running it. And with 65 millions years jump on us, they couldve been into intestellar travel for millions of years already.
Comment icon #28 Posted by Frank Merton on 11 February, 2013, 8:24
I have a couple of problems with the red dwarf earth-like planet idea. To be in the comfort zone of such a star, you have to be close to it -- so close that in less than a billion years or so there will be a tidal lock, so that the planet always keeps the same face pointed at the sun. Also, I understand that red dwarfs are far more prone to violent flaring and that such flares are much worse than on the sun. If my understanding here is right, doesn't that kinda make all this talk about so many earth-like planets being so close to us a bit (actually way) premature?
Comment icon #29 Posted by bison on 11 February, 2013, 16:14
Not all red dwarf stars are prone to flaring. Even in those that do, their severity seems to be linked to their size. Those at the high end of their mass scale are less a problem in this regard. It has also been discussed that a dense atmosphere, and strong magnetic field might protect some such planets from too extreme effects of flares. The main problem with tidally locked planets, seems to be the accumulation of heat on one side, and the freezing of the opposite. It appears possible that powerful convective cells of winds, or the heat distributing effects of oceans, or both, might make su... [More]
Comment icon #30 Posted by Archimedes on 11 February, 2013, 19:17
Humans went from being stone-age hunter gatherers to being able to put a robotic exploration probe on Mars in a matter of some thousands of years. That's barely a blink of the eye in astronomical terms. All it takes is for intelligence to have developed every so slightly earlier or later on another planet for it to make us look either way less advanced or way more advanced than them.
Comment icon #31 Posted by psyche101 on 12 February, 2013, 1:37
I do not think they were wasted, we have no control over mass extinction, and surely a 3 star system would have a greater gravitational pull, and offer if anything more risk to life on surrounding planets. Not sure why anyone would be spared a Chicxulub event. We expect more of them yet ourselves.
Comment icon #32 Posted by psyche101 on 12 February, 2013, 2:01
Yes, but why? We are close enough to detect a signal, the Alpha System is dead. Being such a close system it has garnered a great deal of attention, but no result. Isn't Barnard's star considered a far better option? There is much objection to any life being possible around a Red Dwarf, I would not expect it to factor as a high possibility. Little light, dangerous flares, they seem to have more problems than our planet did. As such, it seems unlikely that life would develop more quickly under more difficult conditions. I think it does not hurt to apply some methodology to what we k... [More]
Comment icon #33 Posted by psyche101 on 12 February, 2013, 2:03
Proxima Centauri is though.
Comment icon #34 Posted by psyche101 on 12 February, 2013, 2:36
Darren Naish does not think Dale Russell was on the mark with his Dinosauroid. He makes the argument that the species would retain many of it's features, and would end up looking a little something like this perhaps: But I personally find the Conway Morris argument more plausible than either.

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