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Space & Astronomy

Earth-like planets could be right next door

February 7, 2013 | Comment icon 34 comments



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. She then reanalyzed those stars to calculate more accurate sizes and temperatures. She found that almost all of those stars were smaller and cooler than previously thought.


Source: CfA | Comments (34)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #25 Posted by psyche101 10 years ago
I do agree we must take it seriously when it comes to extraterrestrial life. We do, not sure why anyone would think otherwise. Even if the planet is not 'Earth-like', their still could be some form of life there. I just hope when we first find life it not very advanced because of how stupid we are still. 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 × 109 years.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Frank Merton 10 years ago
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 Su) at 4.85 × 109 years. Well we wasted a few billion years; other systems may have evolved intelligence much more quickly.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Zeta Reticulum 10 years ago
Well we wasted a few billion years; other systems may have evolved intelligence much more quickly. 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 reptillianrace 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 10 years ago
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 10 years ago
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? Not all red dwarf stars are p... [More]
Comment icon #30 Posted by Archimedes 10 years ago
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 × 109 years. 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 10 years ago
Well we wasted a few billion years; other systems may have evolved intelligence much more quickly. 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 10 years ago
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. 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 opti... [More]
Comment icon #33 Posted by psyche101 10 years ago
Not all red dwarf stars are prone to flaring. Proxima Centauri is though. LINK
Comment icon #34 Posted by psyche101 10 years ago
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. Darren Naish does not think Dale Russell was on the mark with his Dinosauroid. With this in mind, my feeling on dinosauroids and intelligent theropods and so on is that – if they were to evolve – they wouldn’t look like scaly, or feathery, people, but would instead be far more normal from the theropod point ... [More]


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