The more we learn about exoplanets and our own solar system, the more remarkable the universe seems, and the more possibilities for life emerging elsewhere, or anywhere, increases.
The number of exoplanets in habitable orbits around reasonable suns continues to rise. NASA.gov reports that of the 150,000 stars Kepler has studied, 4175 are candidates that may have planets. One thousand were verified as of April and 2/3 or them are rocky. A stratosphere has been found on one of them, similar to that of Earth. Six are nearly Earth-size, orbiting in the habitable zone of stars not unlike our sun. Kepler 186f was the first.
Some of these potentially habitable planets challenge current theories of planet formation. One is Earth-size with an orbit like ours in a double-star system. Another is 2000 times more distant from its sun than we are and is bigger than twelve Jupiters. Kepler 10-C is much larger than Earth (17 times our Earth’s mass) but rocky.
Since so many different approaches are being applied to finding who’s out there, it might be useful to review some of the new findings about life here on Earth and review conditions found in our solar system. Under-ice seas are not uncommon, as are many chemical building blocks of life. The first active volcanoes outside the solar system have been found on 55 Cancri.
We know now that even Mercury has some water ice and other volatiles in shallow polar craters, as well as carbon-rich layers over polar deposits. NASA’s Mercury orbiter has found an old magnetic field, volcanic lava flows over most of its surface, and metals on the surface, which suggests a more temperate early history. Recently, ESA’s Venus Express has also found good evidence for volcanism there.
Study of comet Hale-Bopp found that it carries water, ammonia formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide—the recipe for amino acids necessary for life as we know it. Even our solar system itself is looking different these days, extended outward with the finding of Sedna’s orbit, which has a perihelion of 76 AU, and VP 723 with a perihelion of 80 AU. There are even hints of a super-planet 250 AU distant from the sun.
There are more possibilities in the universe than we have imagined, so the watch continues and is now expanding significantly. A coalition of scientists from a wide selection of fields of study will be applying interdisciplinary systems science to NASA’s search for life beyond Earth. Their primary question is, “Are we alone?” James Graham will head the Berkeley/Stanford University team, and Jim Green is Director of Planetary Science.
Author of The Archives of Varok
The View Beyond Earth (Book 1. Rewrite of A Place Beyond Man 1975)
The Webs of Varok (Book 2.)
Nautilus silver award 2013 YA
ForeWord finalist 2012 adult SF
The Alien Effect (Book 3.)
An Alien’s Quest–Reconciliation and Hope (Book 4. coming in 2015)
Excerpts, Synopses, Reviews, On Writing, Characters and More-
Other Book Reviews- www.goodreads.com/Cary_Neeper
How the Hen House Turns- www.ladailypost.com
Complexity, Bio, Bibliography and Links- caryneeper.com
Astrobiology- astronaut.wpengine.com search:Who’s Out There