Thursday, May 19, 2016

What Are The Chances Of Finding Earth Like Planet?

In the quest of finding earth like planet, using techniques and advanced equipment, we’ve discovered thousands of stars that have their own Solar System.

Just a short 25 years ago, if you had asked astronomers and astrophysicists whether there were planets around other stars, the answer would have been, “probably, but we don’t know for sure.” Thanks to a number of new techniques and advanced equipment, we’ve now discovered thousands of stars within our own galaxy that have their own Solar System. Planets come in a huge diversity of sizes and masses, and are found at all sorts of orbital distances; there are planets larger than Jupiter that orbit their star in less than 48 hours, there are Solar Systems with up to five planets interior to where Mercury is to our Sun, and there are over 200 Earth-sized planets discovered around those stars so far, plus 21 rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their stars.

 finding earth like planet

Almost all of this information came from NASA’s Kepler mission, which has been the primary exoplanet-discovering tool at our disposal. Yesterday marked the transit of Mercury, where our Solar System’s innermost planet passed in front of the Sun’s disk, blocking its light for a short period of time. At the start of a transit, the star’s brightness drops by whatever portion of the star’s disk is covered, then increases again when the planet moves off. That apparent dip in the star’s brightness, as tiny as it is, provides us with the very method that Kepler uses to detect planets around stars other than our own. When a planetary system is perfectly aligned with a star, relative to our line-of-sight, we can observe this transit, and detect worlds around another star.

finding earth like planet

The Kepler spacecraft observed a field of view containing approximately 150,000 stars over a period of approximately four years, detecting more than 2,000 planets and with over 1,000 additional “likely planets” that are still awaiting confirmation. But that doesn’t mean that only 1%-2% of stars have planets around them; the likelihood of having a good planetary alignment with our line-of-sight is very low, and furthermore, we can only detect planets with orbital periods that are less than Kepler’s observing time, so nothing farther out than Mars is.

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