“Of the 54 new planet candidates found in the habitable zone, five are near Earth-sized.”

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The Irish Times has a detailed report noting the confirmed discovery of 6 large exo-planets closely orbiting a star in the system, Kepler-11, approximately 2,000 light years from Earth.

Even more remarkable are reports that the Kepler space observatory, launched in March 2009, first light in April 2009, has now identified 1,235 planetary candidates – and 54 candidates within the habitable zone – from the data for 156,453 stars observed from the beginning of the science observations on 2 May through 16 September 2009.

From the Nasa press release

The discoveries are part of several hundred new planet candidates identified in new Kepler mission science data, released on Tuesday, Feb. 1. The findings increase the number of planet candidates identified by Kepler to-date to 1,235. Of these, 68 are approximately Earth-size; 288 are super-Earth-size; 662 are Neptune-size; 165 are the size of Jupiter and 19 are larger than Jupiter. Of the 54 new planet candidates found in the habitable zone, five are near Earth-sized. The remaining 49 habitable zone candidates range from super-Earth size — up to twice the size of Earth — to larger than Jupiter.

The findings are based on the results of observations conducted May 12 to Sept. 17, 2009, of more than 156,000 stars in Kepler’s field of view, which covers approximately 1/400 of the sky.

“The fact that we’ve found so many planet candidates in such a tiny fraction of the sky suggests there are countless planets orbiting sun-like stars in our galaxy,” said William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., the mission’s science principal investigator. “We went from zero to 68 Earth-sized planet candidates and zero to 54 candidates in the habitable zone, some of which could have moons with liquid water.”

And here’s an overview of the Kepler mission from the scientists involved.

And a reminder of a quote from one of Those [Royal Society] Guys, Isaac Newton contemporary, and long-term rival, Robert Hooke.  From the preface to his 1665 publication Micrographia

‘Tis not unlikely, but that there may be yet invented several other helps for the eye, as much exceeding those already found, as those do the bare eye, such as we may perhaps be able to discover living Creatures in the Moon, or other Planets, the figures of the compounding Particles of matter, and the particular Schematisms and Textures of Bodies.

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  • 241934 john brennan

    An earth size planet 2,000 light years from Planet Earth
    Quick – send a radio nessage. It’s just possible we will get a reply in 4,000 years time.

  • Cynic2

    Unless they sent one to us 2000 years ago in which case it may be sooner

    I sometimes wish that we could find intelligent life ‘out there’ just to stuff it up some of the less intelligent species down here

  • joeCanuck

    We don’t necessarily want them to know we are here or, at least, Stephen Hawking doesn’t think so. Remember the “Red Indians”.
    But I agree with Cynic2 it would be wonderful to know that there is at least one other intelligent species out there since it might put an end to some of the nonsense spouted by religious figures of many hues.
    I, myself, would be chuffed enough to know that there is any sort of life but we could only find that out in our local system.

  • Cynic2

    “we could only find that out in our local system”

    Not necessarily

  • Cynic2

    That poor girl in the video looks like she just met Iris Robinson for the first time. Or Sarah Palin.

  • pippakin

    Why do we think the rules we cling to would apply, or even be considered by anyone out there. If they are there, they may already be way ahead of us, in every way.

  • Greenflag

    Fascinating -thanks Pete again for dragging sluggerites away from the black hole of planet economy into possibly our less mysterious galaxy ;)

    So 5 near earth size planets in the habitable zone . As to Pippikins point as why do we think the rules we cling to would apply ? Surely the answer has tobe that ‘physics’ and ‘mathematics’ and the forces they give rise to e.g gravity are the same throughout the universe ? . Admittedly there are still many unknowns in ‘dark matter ‘ and the micro universes of quantum theory -but for all practical purposes as regards life as we know it -our present physics is close to answering the question as to the existence or non existence of life elswhere and whether the Earth is ‘unique ‘

    Finding 5 is of course just an intro . We know from Earth’s geological and bio history that there’s a lot more to life forming than just being in the ‘habitable ‘ zone . There is the role of tectonics , the effect of nearby moons if any , the number and amount of galactic ‘collisions ‘ in a planet’s history even volcanic activity .

    Finding 5 out of 156,000 star systems would be approx 32 in a million systems , 32,000 in a billion and in a 100 billion star galaxy that would mount to 3,200,000 near earth size planets – assuming a consistent spread which may not be the case as between the outer spiral zone (in which we shelter) and the densely populated core where planets and their suns may have a much shortened life span ).

    So are we a 3 million to one shot or not ? It seems scarcely credible that we could be ?

    I would tend to agree with Joe’s concern and Stephen Hawking’s that it might not be healthy for us to have any alien galactic types muscling in on our patch right now . As it is we have enough to be going on with with the IMF and ECB ;)?

  • pippakin

    Greenflag

    “As to Pippikins point as why do we think the rules we cling to would apply ? Surely the answer has tobe that ‘physics’ and ‘mathematics’ and the forces they give rise to e.g gravity are the same throughout the universe ? .”

    I’m relieved you put the question mark. Here are a couple of links to new discoveries here on earth that could have a bearing on life elsewhere. It is all very much if! http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100407094450.htm

    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/dec/HQ_10-320_Toxic_Life.html

  • Marcus McSpartacus

    For several seconds I thought “Who the hell are New Planet? Ex-Greens?”

  • Marcus McSpartacus

    … and then I thought: “wow, it’s a little cruel to be still making fun of candidates weight, isn’t it?”

  • Pete Baker

    pippakin

    You mean this discovery?

    Note the cautionary note.

    “It remains to be established that this bacterium uses arsenate as a replacement for phosphate in its DNA or in any other biomolecule.”

  • Greenflag

    ‘It is all very much if!’

    But is this really a surprise ? . Way back at the beginning or close thereto and before the earth’s atmosphere turned from almost 0% oxygen to it’s high point of 35% oxygen -there was life non oxygen breathing life for whom increasing amounts of Oxygen was toxic . I believe that some of these ancient lifeforms at a micro parasitic level still live and die within our bowels and other organs where they evade the life threatening gas -oxygen .

    The adaptation to oxygen breathing led to a growth in the size of life forms and that’s what is seen in the Cambrian ‘life ‘ explosion ‘ which we now know followed the ‘snowball earth ‘period which would have extinguished all life from earth oxygen breathing or no – before we were rescued by tectonics i.e volcanic activity -or so the current life development model tells us .

    I can’t imagine 3 million to 1 being the universal odds for life as we know it in this universe -but then the odds for being struck by lightning or winning the lotto are probably longer _ and we know that both events occur -unfortunately for the former too frequently and for the latter not frequently enough ;)

  • pippakin

    Greenflag & Pete Baker

    My point is that there is so much we don’t know. How can we know what is somewhere else, and if there is life how far it has developed, when we are still learning about the life on our own planet.

    I knew of the post on Slugger but I had previously saved the two items and my broadband is too unreliable to browse archives. It cuts me off at inconvenient moments.

  • Pete Baker

    pippakin

    “How can we know what is somewhere else, and if there is life how far it has developed”

    They are simply looking for exo-planets where H2O, if present, would exist in liquid form – ie within the ‘habitable’ zone.

    Those exo-planets can then be the targets of future missions.

  • pippakin

    Pete Baker

    “They are simply looking for exo-planets where H2O, if present, would exist in liquid form – ie within the ‘habitable’ zone.”

    Why do we think the rules we cling to would apply, or even be considered by anyone out there. If they are there they may already be way ahead of us, in every way.

    I did read it, including the other comments. Thanks.

  • Pete Baker

    pippakin

    It’s a starting point for testing a hypothesis.

    That given the right conditions, life should exist.

    All known life requires liquid water.

    If we don’t find life as we know it in the right conditions that might tell us something important.

    Then we can look for life as we don’t know it.

    Although I’m not quite sure what we would be looking for…

  • 241934 john brennan

    Below is a short scientific guide to evolution, from the Big Bang onwards. It is a little bit unique, in that it accommodates both science and theology, i.e. the finite universe (the realm of scientists) as we know it is/was created by an infinite God (the realm of theologians and philosophers).

    Evolution – A SIMPLE SCIENCE GUIDE

    The Big Bang: Scientists with their theories go back to the ‘Planck distance’ – a universe that is only 10-34 cm in diameter. The smallest distance we can differentiate with instruments is about 10-15 cm. (note. a)

    At 10-34 cm the laws of physics that we know no longer apply. So we do not know what time is like at such a minute size

    We can extrapolate back to a point, no space, no time, but that is a singularity, and is infinite. Scientists don’t like to introduce infinity into thinking about a finite universe.

    Some think that time does not have an absolute beginning as such, but time as we know only begins as the original fireball expanded beyond the 10-34 cm size. They speculate about time below the size 10-34 cm.

    There is also the connection between change and time. There is change at the transcendental level, angels and creation in the original Knowing in God. There is undoubtedly change in our fallen becoming, but how do we relate these using the concept of time? Unfallen time and fallen time perhaps? Thus Genesis is about both.
    Evolution: Scientists are conscious of the evidence for the role of evolution in developing the whole cosmos and all life from the Big Bang beginning, some 14 billion years ago

    First cosmological evolution:
    Force fields  energy and matter  subatomic particles  hydrogen atoms  heavier elements  molecules   stars   planets

    Then biological evolution:
    Molecules  supra molecules  single cells  plants  animals  homo sapiens.

    The universal natural forces in matter and energy (all physical entities) are ordered towards producing life, including homo sapiens. They carry life, both potentially and actually, within them and so constitute a universal life force (science), or world soul (theology)

    Note a. Max Planck. 1845 – 1947, German physicist who first formulated the quantum theory (1900): Nobel Prize for physics 1918.

  • Pete Baker

    John

    “There is also the connection between change and time. There is change at the transcendental level, angels and creation in the original Knowing in God. There is undoubtedly change in our fallen becoming, but how do we relate these using the concept of time? Unfallen time and fallen time perhaps? Thus Genesis is about both.”

    That’s not an accomodation.

    That’s an imposition of supernaturalism, stated as fact, onto science simply to fit your ‘idols’ into the story.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Pete
    The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longing for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, “the seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”, can have its origin only in God.

    Are you saying humans do not have spirit/soul and there is no such thing as infinity? Mathematics is a branch of science. Why is it that mathematicians generally believe in the Infinite e.g. Cantor and Ruddy Rucker – as opposed to evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins?

  • Pete Baker

    “The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longing for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, “the seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”, can have its origin only in God.”

    As I said, supernaturalism, stated as fact, simply to fit your ‘idols’ into the story.

  • 241934 john brennan

    “That’s an imposition of supernaturalism, stated as fact, onto science simply to fit your ‘idols’ into the story”.

    “As I said, supernaturalism, stated as fact, simply to fit your ‘idols’ into the story”.

    Pete: Such repeated meaningless jargon makes little contribution to rational debate on this, or any subject.

    I suppose you also repeat it to refutate of the historically attested fact of the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ – and also against one of the foremost witnesses to that fact – the man whose Christian name you bear.

  • Reader

    241934 John brennan: The soul, “the seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”, can have its origin only in God.
    Once you have demonstrated that there is such a thing as a soul that is distinguishable from consciousness or self-awareness, you should probably let us know whether your statement above is an axiom, or whether you are prepared to derive it.
    241934 John brennan: Why is it that mathematicians generally believe in the Infinite e.g. Cantor and Ruddy Rucker – as opposed to evolutionary biologists like Richard Dawkins?
    Dawkins, for all that he is only involved in the squishy sciences, does seem to believe in infinity. But he doesn’t think that infinity has a beard or needs a capital letter.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Reader; good questions

    The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body: i.e. it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

    I know little of mathematics, but I do know that mathematicians are more comfortable with the concept of infinity than their contemporaries in other scientific fields, which generally deal with the finite universe and can therefore test, or work towards testing, their theories. When it comes to infinity, mathematicians can point to the Reflection Principle, which I don’t understand, but I wouldn’t like to count numbers of reflections, if I were standing between several large mirrors, or placed within a large brightly lit sphere made entirely from mirrors.

    Mathematicians also speak of hierarchies and sets of infinities – then go on to say that logically there has to be Absolute Infinity – God? But infinity, never mind Absolute Infinity, cannot ever be scientifically tested. However, this is where both Faith and Reason leads us.