The Search for Earthlike Planets

2014, Science  -  27 min Leave a Comment
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For many years, the remarkable planet-searching mission, Kepler, gazed at a large body of 150,000 stars situated in a neighborhood located 3,000 light years away from planet Earth. The valuable information harvested by this space probe has brought a critical point in this lengthy search for earthlike planets. Is planet Earth one of many life-supporting worlds scattered across the galaxy; or is it a unique garden of Eden in a desolate universe?

What are we discovering about our place in the universe, from the hunt for planets similar to Earth? Thousands of years ago, humans began to migrate across the planet, following mysterious roadways, traversing unfathomable distances. We followed all coastlines and crossed dangerous seas.

We managed to cross the ocean's narrow passages depleted by the last ice age. Into every obscure part of Earth we went, looking for a land to put down our roots, to take care of our families, or just to discover what was there. Today, it's the unexplored universe that excites our imagination. With countless stars in just one ordinary galaxy, such as the Milky Way, we make a logical estimation, that the universe must be packed with earthlike worlds, with life... even with humanlike life.

This supposed "many worlds" hypothesis dates back to age-old times, to China, India, Greece, and Egypt. The Qur'an, the Talmud, and many Hindu texts all fancied a cosmos full of live forms. It wasn't until the 16th century that this belief became grounded in the solid concepts of the physical universe.

Astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus asserted that Earth revolves around the Sun. That paved the way for the Italian monk, Giordano Bruno, a natural philosopher who assumed that the universe is everlasting and endless. He claimed that there is a myriad of worlds with various life forms, intelligent beings included. Bruno's explicit objections to church dogma got him to put to death in the year 1600. His main ideas were proven when Galileo Galilei used his telescope to demonstrate that our Sun is just one among innumerable other stars.

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