Milky Way Found Rich in Small, Rocky Earth-like Planets (VIDEO)

L_ebb064111f8048a0885719245b1c0cc4 Harvard astronomer Dimitar Sasselov, a co-investigator of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, has declared that the “Galaxy is rich in small, Earth-like planets” at a Technology Entertainment and Design conference at Oxford University in mid-July.  “Even before we have confirmed the planets among these hundreds of candidates,” he adds, “we can see statistically that the smaller-sized planets will be more common than the large-sized (Jupiter- and Saturn-like ones) in the sample,”The Kepler space telescope has observed evidence of up to 140 different planets similar in size to the Earth. Sasselov believes that the discovery amounts to a Copernican revolution where a clear and loud “yes” is given to the question: “Are there other Earth like planets out there that can harbor life?” 

Estimates of earth-like planets in the galaxy could be quickly revised up to 100 million or more. Most importantly, Sasselov  says that the data allows scientists to scan exoplanets for tell tale signs of life. 

David Koch, the mission’s deputy principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, says these planets “have the apparent signature we are looking for, but then we must perform extensive follow-up observations to eliminate false positives, such as background eclipsing binaries. This requires substantial amounts of ground-based observing which is done primarily in the summer observing season.”

Sasselov explained that the results so far of the Kepler mission heralded a Corpernican revolution. Just as Corpernicus revolutionized astronomy by publishing data that the solar system rotated around the sun, rather than the earth, so too the data from the Kepler mission would lead to another scientific revolution. Rather than planets like earth being unique or an uncommon occurrence in the galaxy, they in fact are plentiful. Sasselov declared in his speech that the “Galaxy is rich in small, Earth-like planets”

This April, Stephen Hawking claimed it was “perfectly rational” to discuss the motivations of advanced extraterrestrial life. The findings of the Kepler mission make inquiry into the possible motivations of intelligent extraterrestrial life not only “perfectly rational” but now a logical necessity. The Kepler space telescope results will not only bring about an astronomical revolution, but a revolution in social and political thought about technologically advanced intelligent life in the galaxy and its impact on humanity.

Casey Kazan via TED Conference

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