Planets, planets, planets!
An artist's rendering of a view of an unusual planet orbiting the star Kepler-36, identified by the Kepler mission.
January 8th, 2013
01:00 PM ET

Planets, planets, planets!

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

We still don't know if Earth, as a planet that currently harbors life, is alone in the universe. But scientists are actively searching for clues about other potential habitable worlds outside our solar system.

Astronomers are presenting their latest findings at the American Astronomical Society annual conference in Long Beach, California, this week. The word on the cosmic street is that Earth-sized planets are relatively common and that hundreds of new planet candidates have been identified.

"We have begun to truly map the planets in our galaxy akin to the way that early explorers mapped the Earth," said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who works with data from the NASA Kepler mission, which aims to identify planets outside of Earth's solar system.

Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Hawaii at Manoa have estimated that 17% of stars that are like our sun host planets with a diameter of one to two times that of Earth, which orbit close to these stars.

This is based on data from NASA's Kepler mission, which can only detect planets that have a much smaller orbital radius (about 25%) than Earth's. That means that 17% of sun-like stars in the galaxy would have a planet about the size of Earth, or slightly bigger, within the orbit of Mercury.

If we're talking about planets about the size of Earth or a little bigger - that are within Earth-like orbits - that could apply to as many as 50% of all stars in the galaxy, but that doesn't mean these planets could host life.

A planet with a diameter of two to three times that of Earth would generally resemble Uranus and Neptune, according to the scientists. These planets would have a rocky core, hydrogen and helium gases and maybe even water. Near to a star, a rocky planet could have oceans with depths of hundreds of miles.

The Kepler telescope takes repeated images of the constellation Cygnus - specifically, of 150,000 stars. Computer software analyzes those images by looking for dimming of the stars, which might indicate that a planet is passing in front of it during orbit. At least three transits must be observed to be considered the signal of a planet candidate.

"Based on the new Kepler results, it's just breathtaking to realize that some of our very nearest neighboring stars must have Earth-size planets," Seager said.

It is easier for Kepler to detect big planets because these planets make the star dim more than small planets during transit. For example, a Jupiter-sized planet makes a star dim by one part in 100, while a planet the size of Earth would only dim a star by one part in 10,000. Given these limitations, researchers estimate that Kepler misses about one in four Earth-sized planets.

And there's more news from Kepler this week: The mission has discovered 461 candidate planets. That means that they still need to be confirmed as planets, but there's a whole lot of them. In terms of potential targets for extraterrestrial life, four of these are less than twice the size of Earth and have orbits in the "habitable zone."

That's the term astronomers use to talk about the range of distance from a star in which liquid water could exist on a planet's surface.

The 461 planets come from observations that took place from May 2009 to March 2011. Researchers found an uptick in the number of smaller planet candidates and the stars that have more than one potential planet orbiting them.

Kepler's database of potential planets has increased 20% since February 2012, with a total of 2,740 planet candidates orbiting 2,036 stars.

Scientists must perform additional analyses to confirm that a planet exists. So far, from the Kepler data, there have been 105 planets confirmed.

It appears 43% of the potential planets identified by Kepler have neighbor planets, meaning many of them exist in multi-planet solar systems.

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Filed under: In Space • Kepler
soundoff (171 Responses)
  1. backlink

    Awesome, seriously. Awesome. Fantastic article. Thanks for sharing. It is extremely helpful. backlink

    April 25, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  2. Poltergeist

    We should put all this money into better radar and a rail gun, then we could just shoot one of the aliens flying over Los Alamos down for first contact.

    January 20, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  3. Rudolf vs

    It figures... Why should our planet be special?
    It is only question of time before life on an other planet is confirmed.

    January 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • zlop

      Life on Earth, rose from the oceans.
      Perhaps, a balloon creature floating inside a Gas Giant ?

      January 17, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  4. howardfeinski

    I estimate that there are 1.342987 trillion earth-like planets in the universe. 72.487% will be reachable from earth within 2.1356 x 10 cubed billion years. Put it in the history books and let's see how long it is till someone tops this estimate.

    January 16, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  5. ollie

    yea right agreed!

    January 13, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  6. zlop

    Observing Proxima Centauri
    Large radio telescope, synthesized from satellites orbiting the same distance as Pluto
    Operating at 1.5 GHZ (0.2 meters) - Theoretical resolution ~ 816 meters

    distance to Pluto 6e12 meters - distance to Proxima Centauri 4.24*9.46e15
    1.22*(0.2)/(12*10^12) = x/(4.24*9.46*10^15) - x=815.6

    January 12, 2013 at 3:33 am |
  7. Sayid

    This will be awesome to colonize on other planets! We would have such good technology! Like in Halo! Lol i am a huge Halo fan.

    January 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • zlop

      If we start soon, in the next Interglacial , 90,000 years from now,
      Humans might live on a Alpha Centauri system planet.

      Average speed needed 300000*(4.24/90000) =14.1 kilometers/second.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
      • Cory

        At the rate of population growth, extraction of resources, toxification of the oceans, depletion of the ozone, etc. all because of capitalism and consumer object fetishism we're lucky if we have 50 years.

        January 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  8. History to be make

    Let’s say we found 100 of them just like earth with 75 degree F tempature and all , what you do next you can't go there in your life time

    January 10, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • Mason33

      Actually, the idea is to find earth-like planets within 10-20 light years away from earth, with our current technology we're able to match at least 1/4 the speed of light so a planet 10 light years away would take a 40 year trip, if you're 30 today, you'll be 70 by the time you arrive, quite possible. Cryosleep is actually a viable option too in the future and it's becoming more of a science fact than science fiction.I believe it will be possible some day, hopefully within the next 30-50 years.

      January 10, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
      • mugzee

        Just ONE warp flight and the Vulcans will make first contact!

        January 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Joe

      We can't get remotely close to the speed of light.

      January 11, 2013 at 5:18 am |
      • Mason33

        January 11, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • Poltergeist

      70 by the time it arrives, dead by the time the first photo gets back.

      January 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  9. History to be make

    No doubt there are planty of earth like planets and we will bag some of them in 2013 but what you can do as you can't reach there in your life time , infact in millions of life time ...

    January 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  10. davetharave

    E-T will be phoning home pretty soon

    January 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  11. Muffy

    Waving a flag for PLUTO!! Let's restore to planetary status

    January 9, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  12. archangel

    Let's travel. πŸ™‚

    January 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
  13. Daniel

    I just think we should stop looking for other life out there. I highly doubt they will run up to us and shake our hand. We may be a threat which needs eliminated.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • chris

      It would not be necessary to find intelligent extraterrestrial life; a simple organism like bacteria would do just fine. That alone would be the greatest discovery since, who knows when. Imagine what such findings would do for science, religion, politics, etc.

      January 10, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  14. Andrew Planet

    It seems that it might be pretentious to believe that "Earth, as a planet that currently harbours life, is alone in the Universe." On the other hand, ever since the Big Bang, life must have started somewhere first, or at least at several places at the same time, more or less.

    January 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Roger Ramjet

      We have absolutely NO data on life anywhere other than here – so its all guesses. Why is it pretentious to say that Earth is the only place to harbor (advanced, human) life?

      January 9, 2013 at 11:24 am |
      • religion; a way to control the weak minded

        not pretentious....conceited is the correct word

        January 15, 2013 at 9:38 am |
    • Lena Ricks

      This makes me wonder about parrelel (sp) universe or multiuniverses. Did you read the Science Times (New York Times) a few weeks ago? There's an article you may be interested in re multiverses.


      January 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
  15. empresstrudy

    Obama has declared a new tax on them.

    January 8, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  16. cpc65

    I call dibs on any planet named Babeoria or Amazonia!

    January 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  17. Buck

    It's quite amazing that after all these years of blatant fakery that NASA et al. is still able to con most people with their astro-evolutionary PR such as this. It's obvious they faked the lunar landings (inside the three-foil-thick LEM) and no doubt have been staging the rest of 'human spaceflight' as none of it is possible due to atmospheric heat generated at hypersonic reentry being '10 times hotter than the sun', i.e. a meteor. Knowing this, NASA and the CCCP were both formed, via the same NAZI scientists, to con the entire world with the alleged and obviously staged 'space race' (Yuri Gagarin 'bailing' from his Vostok at hypersonic is comical at best, as well as Glenn's 'reentry' stunt following the monkeys).

    As a result of this 50-year strategically planned fraud, we know have the International Fake Station (orbital satellite) flying above, yet thank goodness the actors are 'grounded' inside the hangar in Baikonur. And maybe, just maybe one day with their fakery NASA will be able to 'prove' evolution and that we all came from monkeys as Apollo 17 astro-actor Dr. Harrison Schmitt thinks. Wake up folks and smell the roses of reality – NASA, the grandest con in human history....

    January 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • drwdrw123

      Haven't laughed this hard in a long time – come out of your bunker dooms day prepper !!

      January 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • Buck

        Did I say anything about a 'dooms day'?

        January 9, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Terence

      It's time to send this idiot into space and leave him there.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
      • Buck

        Please do, yet since I have stood on the very spot NASA faked parts of Apollo, then we can save the dollars for additional fake pictures of 'exploding stars' to keep the astro-evolutinists entertained.....

        January 9, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • MK2

      Thanks, I needed a laugh πŸ™‚

      January 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • Buck

        Your welcome, and laugh while you can my friend.

        January 9, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Robert

      Trolls regenerate health when wounded, but are susceptible to fire.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • ollie

        yea right

        January 13, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      How utterly stupid.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
      • Buck

        Please reply with intelligent, scientific comments, otherwise you indeed reveal yourself as being stupid.

        January 9, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Jon

      Only religious people and anti-evolution people make these types of comments.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
      • Buck

        Religion, just like evolution, is fraudulent. I believe only in truth.

        January 9, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Herman the Kid

      If the ISS is the IFS, then what's that big hunk of junk that I can see with my telescope on clear summer nights?

      January 8, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
      • Buck

        You have very poor reading skills. Reread my post and it answers your silly question.

        January 9, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Schmuck

      You're totally right. . . My cell phone uses semaphore instead of a satellite signal.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
      • Buck

        Satellites are real, so what's your point?

        January 9, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Joel Harper

      LOL... I pray you have tongue firmly inserted in cheek sir

      January 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
      • Buck

        Pray hard.

        January 9, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Ruben

      Damn, you truly rank among the top ten idiots I have ever met and I have met some seriously demented individuals. I suppose you also think that our satellites are not in space.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
      • Buck

        Ruben, obviously you're no physicists, hence you'd better just go back to your cartoons and remain in dupedom. Reality is too much for you to handle.

        January 9, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Walter

      guys guys...dont take "Buck" seriously.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
      • Buck

        Nay, take 'seriously' NASA's drops from C130's.....

        January 9, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Gary

      Interesting point of view. I have never thought of that. This is the kind of critical thinking that we need. It triggered my interest to take a deeper look at the space program. Thank you for your post.

      January 8, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
      • Buck

        Why you're very welcome there Mr. Gary....

        January 9, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • justme

      better be careful and not fall off the edge of the earth ......being its flat and all

      January 8, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
      • Buck

        You wish I think the world is flat. Tiz round, like your head.....

        January 9, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Austin

      I hope you don't honestly believe what you have said. But for anyone who doe believe in the apollo hoax. We can line up a laser with a reflector on the moon, shoot the laser to the moon, and time how long it takes to return. We can then work backwards to find the distance the laser traveled. This is empirical evidence that there are man-made objects on the moon. If you have the equipment, you can do the experiment yourself.

      January 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
      • Buck

        Austin, NASA has been bouncing signals off the moon prior to Apollo. Do your homework. Also, you gotta love how NASA has to 'prove' they landed on the moon inside their 'three-foil-thick' tin-can literally 'held together with staples and Scotch tape' with their pics.... Hmm, NASA 'proves' NASA claims.... Gotta love it....

        January 9, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Portland tony

      Spent four years building and testing Apollo hardware in Downey and at the Cape. Believe me you stone age idiot "twernt" no fake!

      January 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Mason33

      Mr. Buck, I'm all about challenging theories and claims, but this article is about finding potential earth-like planets in our galaxy for the purpose of some day having alternate destination where to look for a new home when earth drifts away from the habitable zone (millions of years from now, but still).

      Then you go on bashing on NASA (seems to me you have a personal vendetta against this agency/organization) alluding to the claims that the Apollo missions and moon landing are all fake. Well, let's assume for a moment YOU are RIGHT, now let's apply logic here:

      1. NASA is all a fake and their claims are false.
      My response: Who cares? I mean specially you, if you know for a fact all the claims from NASA are false why do you persist in following their research? To tell people the truth? Who are you tell people to wake up? I mean NASA has a large array of scientiests, engineers, technicians, etc. and they DO research for better understanding of the cosmos for all humanity, and you are who again to claim this agency just dedicate their lives to misinform the public? Does that really make sense to anyone?

      2. How about privatized companies that have made contact with the ISS, are they fake too?
      My response: How far does your obsession goes? Are companies like Space X also involved with deceiving the world as well? Isn't that a bit too paranoid? Do you have a problem trusting anyone? Do you feel goverments are out to get you and lie to you about everything? Get off your self-important cloud! Be realistic with your claims, give it a little more thought.

      3. It is all staged, it is all a strategically planned fraud.
      My response: Ok Mr. Know-it-all, so how about you fund a multi-billion dollar/euro company/agency/organization and give us the truth since you seem know more than NASA. Most of us are not that naive to believe in claims like Nibiru (which obviously didn't happen) I can accept if you try to challenge claims of that nature, but really to diss on NASA . . . REALLY? now that is really comical my friend.

      January 9, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Rocky

      Ok buck. NASA is fake, but India has sent Chandrayaan to the moon and discovered water and in fact the NASA probe that went with it was sent crashing to create a mild explosion near the southern hemisphere to take out the outer layers of the soil and study water traces underneath. This mild explosion could be seen with amateur telescopes from earth. Now you can say the telescopes are fake too. You can also spot the ISS on certain days by going to their site. Usually during dawn and dusk. Maybe your eyes n brains are fake too and you reside in the matrix in galaxy NGC 3233, star 343, planet 5 and you are an illusion existing on earth posting on cnn.

      January 11, 2013 at 9:44 am |
      • howardfeinski

        Don't you think the astronauts could've left a strobe light or something up there for us doubters. (and don't try to hold out funny photoshopped pictures as examples)

        January 16, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  18. beamme up please!

    Well gravity would have to play some cause. if you have too much gravitational force against a star providing heat or light like the sun. it will determine what kind of path the planet would travel around the central star. it can also depend on the density of the core too. the planet could be big with a less dense core creating a smaller gravitational pull and wind up like jupiter in a spot outside of the habital zone. not to mention the makeup of the planetary materials... ex.. gases, solids, or liquids.

    January 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  19. wizard2399

    Of the billions of solar systems in just our galaxy there must be thousands of planets in their stars' "habitable" zone (temperature wise, atmospheric wise, and gravity wise) to support a form of carbon-based life as we know it. Enough time has passed for those life forms to have evolved to intelligent beings and to either destroy themselves, die out from natural catastrophes, or even leave their doomed planets and colonize other star systems. The distances involved for communication with these civilizations are just too great for us, with our present technology, to allow direct communication in a normal earth lifetime. So, for the present it is just a matter of faith that we are not the only intelligent beings in this galaxy. The odds favor that we are not alone. We are in the infancy of a most exciting time of finding and identifying these "earth-like" planets and I suspect that within the next 200 years we will be talking to our "neighbors".

    January 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • scott

      We're not the only intelligent beings on this planet, let alone the galaxy. Just because dolphins or whales or chimps or dogs or ants for that matter haven't built spaceships doesn't make them a species that lacks intelligence.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Rebecca

      I guess you didn't watch the Republican primaries? Who says "we" are intelligent life?

      January 8, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • davetharave

      I don't think we will find any Republicans on these other planets

      January 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  20. Robert

    The Earth is extremely unique and I doubt humans will ever find another similar planet. Instead of trying to find similar Earthlike planets we would be better off building large scale super structures similar to the vessel in Arthur C. Clarke's "Rendezvous With Rama", or developing underground cities on Mars since there are a lot fewer quakes than what the Earth or the Moon experiences. Humanity needs to spread out and soon.

    January 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • dragonfire0477

      While I like the concept of a human martian colony, I'm not yet convinced that it would be more beneficial than an underground moon colony. Let alone more beneficial for earth. A Mars colony stands a better chance of being self-sufficient (out of not much more than necessity) but the Moon colony would be much easier to re-supply and to communicate with.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
      • Josef Bleaux

        Even if we found another Earth-like planet, it would probably be at the very least, several light years away. So for the foreseeable future, space habitats would be better if you're talking about an alternative to living on Earth. But that's not the main reason for the search. The search for Earth-like planets is to answer the age-old question, "are we alone". Are we? I doubt it.

        January 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
      • howardfeinski

        In complete agreement. We should dust off the old prints from '69 and figure how to get someone to the moon for just a few hundred billion.

        January 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Joel Harper

      cosmic radiation & the effect of no gravity on the human body are still major hurdles to get over before any generation-type ships could be employed.... radiation being the bigger problem.

      January 8, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • Rebecca

      Humanity needs to adopt free birth control and soon.

      January 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  21. Mad Doc

    Passport read?

    January 8, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  22. Kenny

    "A planet with a diameter of two to three times that of Earth would generally resemble Ur anus?"

    January 8, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Yours, not mine. πŸ™‚

      January 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  23. Jeff

    There is nothing more arrogant than the belief that there is no other life in the universe.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Roger Ramjet

      The same people that don't believe in God, believe that we are not alone in the Universe (i.e other human-like lifeforms). The likelyhood of either is the same.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
      • Josef Bleaux

        Or not. I'd say the odds are pretty good for E.T. There are somewhere between 100 billion and 200 billion stars in our galaxy. Scientist believe there are 100 – 200 billion galaxies. So I seriously doubt that the Earth is unique. On the other hand, what are the chances of an invisible, supernatural being in the sky that magically poofed the Universe into existence? And for that matter, must have poofed himself into existence as well.

        January 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Logan

      ... Except for the statement you just made.

      While I do believe there is a good chance of there being other life out there (probably moreso to do with the fact I WANT there to be), I would say that your statement in and of itself is the pinnacle of arrogance. You are purporting a fact as truth without any concrete evidence (Religions do it alot). Bayesian logic would actually say it is not probable for there to be life out there because we don't have any actual EVIDENCE and the PRIOR PROBABILITY is very low (again due to lack of evidence). Of course if you don't accept Bayes' way of logic that is a different story πŸ™‚

      Again, I tend to want to agree that there is MOST LIKELY life out there, but most forms of logic would tell you otherwise. Bottom line, you are presenting a statement that is hypocritical. Just be comfortable in the fact that we just don't know πŸ™‚ Real comforting, huh? haha

      January 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
      • Josef Bleaux

        Or, you could argue that we DO have evidence that at least one planet has life – Earth. And it orbits a yellow dwarf star (VERY common in the Universe) and it's made of elements that are readily available almost anywhere in the Universe.

        January 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
      • Joel Harper

        evidence of life on planets..... 1
        evidence of a supreme being.... 0
        I think 1 is bigger than 0

        January 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
      • Logan

        Josef, fair argument. I still have no CERTAINTY of life elsewhere, but of course there is some chance. I hope we find it soon.

        Joel I am not arguing for a supreme being, merely drawing the comparison that he was doing the same thing most religions do. I think "being" is a misnomer here. Of course it can't be a being, but I still hold on hope for some supreme power/energy. Admittedly that is more based on feeling than fact.

        I was just trying to say his initial argument was pretty arrogant.

        January 9, 2013 at 6:53 am |
  24. Roger Ramjet

    Scientists are being a bit myopic in looking for new "Earth's". The Earth has a twin planet named Venus. I'm not talking about the location of Venus – but I'm looking at its atmosphere which is 100x as thick as the Earth's. Which is more common in the Universe, a thick atmosphere like Venus or a extremely thin (in comparison) atmosphere like Earth's?

    I believe the answer is more like Venus. So even if we find an identical Earth (size-wise), we could not live there because of the crushing atmosphere. There are many more aspects of Earth that are unique – probably unique enough so that human life is only possible here. Here's the whole theory;

    January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Nicko

      trillions of stars, trillions of planets, yet we are alone. You're odds of being right are 1 in one trillion, buddy

      January 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • Roger Ramjet

        1 in a TreDecillion (10**42) more like.

        January 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • MrSpock

      The earth too experienced runaway greenhouse effects and a much thicker atmosphere in its prehistoric past. Iron in the ocean absorbed the extra C02 and deposited it on the ocean floor as rust. I mention this because the likelihood of finding an Earth-like (circa 2013) planet depends as much on WHEN you look as where you look.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
      • Roger Ramjet

        or the blast wave from the supernova 4.5 Gya stripped the atmosphere pretty good.

        January 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Odd that the Earth's atmosphere is about 1/100th of the density of Venus' and Mars' atmosphere is about 1/100th the density of Earth's. So that would indicate to me that the thickness of a rocky planet's atmosphere would be in some proportion to it's proximity to the parent star.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
      • Roger Ramjet

        Mars – maximum surface pressure is only 0.6% of that of the Earth (101.3 kPa). So its more like 1/1000 of Earth and not 1/100. I'm not sure you can draw any conclusions about atmosphere density and distance from star.

        January 9, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • mikey

      I I agree...humans can't even exist in most places on our own earth unassisted by elaborate equipment. Whether it be 6 miles underground where gravity would crush us if the heat didn't melt us, or 3 miles up a mountain where our bodies stop functioning properly due to lack of air pressure let alone the lack of oxygen concentration to breath properly. Talk about a Goldilocks situation, even among 100 billion potential planets considered in the habitable zone, would any of them be so precisely like Earth to really allow us to walk around without extremely complex life support equipment? I think we need to focus on making sure our own planet can sustain us, and that we can live a sustainable lifestyle right where we are.

      January 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  25. Brenda

    BubbaCo....why blame our planetary mess on God?

    January 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  26. blinky

    They're all filled up with Republitards and libtards, so we have to make do here.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  27. Lol

    I don't think the OP has an understanding of how this works. The planet doesn't have to be the size of our planet to hold life, it could be 100 times larger or smaller and still hold life. The only thing that matters is whether life, whatever that alien life may be, which may be far different from ours, can survive at the distance the planet is orbiting it's star and has surface condition's that are survivable to whatever life it may hold. Even according to our very limited knowledge based only on our planets lifeforms we've discovered that microorganisms and other animals can survive a staggering number of environments some that even us humans cannot survive without protective and assistive gear. Give it another 50-100 years, I'm confident we will have at least discovered micro-organisms elsewhere with probes/drones/rovers if we haven't already made contact with other sentient beings directly. I'm more inclined to believe in life on other planets in our multi-verse than I am any gods at least.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
    • Gravitykills

      It's called gravity. If the planet is too big the gravity will be too great for life to form. If its to small, it will not have enough gravity to hold to its atmosphere, and you will have mars.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • Aezel

        Actually Mars lost it's atmosphere because it's core cooled down. This weakened it's magnetic field and started to cook away the atmosphere with radiation. You should probably have some remote clue about the subject before you start correcting people.

        Also high gravity doesn't preclude life whatsoever. Again you are severely misinformed.

        January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Steve

        But at what point is gravity too much for life to form? At what point is the atmosphere too thin to support life? These are questions we don't have answers to yet. The only reason we get excited about an Earth sized planet is because it resembles the only current example of a planet with life, Earth. However, that does not mean that life is necessarily impossible on a much larger or smaller planet.

        January 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Bacon Grease

        You Sir, don't know what the hell you are talking about.

        January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
      • Gravitykills

        Using Mars as saying how it looks, not what happen to it. And your misinformed if you do not think gravity has anything to do with life forming.

        January 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • Joel Harper

        wouldn't a less dense planet allow for a larger diameter and similar gravity ?

        January 8, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
      • Roger Ramjet

        Exactly. Mars lost its atmosphere because it didn't have the gravity to hold it. So that begs the question of where did Mars get its atmosphere (and water) in the first place? The answer is at

        January 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Gravitykills

      January 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Agreed. And as for strong gravity, it wouldn't be a problem for smaller, insect-like organisms or even bacteria.

      But what conditions are necessary for live to BEGIN? When life began on Earth, the Earth was MUCH different than it is now. It probably had an atmosphere similar in composition to Venus and Mars (mostly nitrogen) although with a different density, it was probably a lot hotter, the oceans were more acidic, etc. So conditions that we know today are not necessarily the conditions required for life to START.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  28. Ken

    There are millions of inhabited planets.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Scrooge

      I am nauseaous!

      January 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  29. gshf2012

    Hubble-Keplar, Tesla-Space X-and Elon Musk to save mankind!! Fun and fast paced new science fiction novel. Read as art imitates life!!!!
    A must read–God Shuffled His Feetβ€”A Novel by Mark Ellenbogen
    Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads.
    Exciting fun novel with a humorous apocalyptic twist. Elon Musk-Tesla and Space X help save mankind from total destruction! Meet astronomers Ravi Najir and Sam Klein, two PHD doctoral students from Humboldt, California, about to have their world turned upside down--literally. The duo wins a $250,000 grant and a coveted year long viewing slot using the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the heavens. Little do they know that what they are about discover, will rock the Earth, their lives, and the heavens all at once!
    High in the far reaches of space, up where the Crab Nebula is supposed to be, a new solar system has formed and Klein and Najir are about to discover it. Within minutes of accessing their chosen Hubble coordinates, two new celestial bodies are discovered where none existed before!!
    Dubbing their discovery the Master Kush Formation; the two unlikely heroes are quickly rocketed to fame and glory over night. A new sun and a fully habitable blue-green planet have taken the place of the Crab Nebula. God plans to wipe the Earth clean and start over!!!
    The clock is ticking and time is running out. Only a few will make it. The boys enlist the help of Elon Musk, Tesla and Space X to manage the technology and transport the saved. Do you have what it takes? Open up God Shuffled His Feet for the ride of your life!! Peppered with interesting trivia, thoughtful humor and some suspenseful science fiction God Shuffled His Feet will entertain while provoking some thought in the process.

    January 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • Aezel

      I'm sure you're kidding but....if it has God in it you can file it under fantasy, not sci-fi.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
  30. Tonelok

    Eliminate church tax exempt status for one year(71Billion) and we fund NASA for 4 years(17.7Billion).

    Also to someone else's point. Planet orbits aren't dependent on the plane of the galaxy. Some are in line, some aren't :]

    January 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • gwf333

      While I understand the idea, it won't easily work unless you eliminate tax on all non-profit or charitable organizations. If that be the case, the by all means, do away with all. But doing it for one piece of the group that receives tax exemption?

      It's not like we need more funding for NASA anyway. What, to discover a planet like Mars (uninhabitable) that seems to be like Earth (habitable) in a galaxy 10 light years away. We'll never get there anyway. It's awesome to dream about, and the sci-fi aspect is interesting, but unless they come up with an Orson Scott Card method of space travel, then those planets will become unreachable, and we spend time and money studying something for the pure joy and interest of it. It is interesting, and fun ... like driving around a Ferari. Although I wouldn't recommend anyone loaded down in debt to buy a Ferari. Would you?

      January 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
      • Josef Bleaux

        The nearest galaxy is MILLIONS of light years away, not 10. The nearest STAR is 4 1/2 light years away, not feasible now but maybe in the future.

        January 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
      • Smart Alex

        If you cant spell it you can't afford it

        January 8, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  31. Robb

    The technique described in the article for finding planets doesn't make sense. Think about it – the diameter of Earth's orbit around the Sun is 186,000,000 miles. The diameter of the Sun is 865,000 miles – less than 1/2 of 1%. Unless you were looking at our solar system absolutely edge on, you'd never see Earth transit across the Sun – Earth would always be above or below it. Same would hold true for these other systems. So, what am I missing?

    January 8, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • LouAZ

      What are you missing ? The ability to think in 3 space.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • dATRUTH

      You are missing the fact that Kepler is observing the light emitted by stars over the course of several months at a time. The location is almost irrelevant. If you put a light blub in a lamp, it doesnt matter what direction you look at it; as long as you have a view of lightbulb, the light will be just bright, no matter if you are under it, above it, or where-ever. However, to address the point you are referring to, Kepler is extremely limited. Kepler would only detect planets whose orbital paths transit the star in the direction Kepler is looking from. So orbital patterns and planetary mass do matter considerably. This is the extent of our current technology due to our society's expenditures on "defense" and fighting wars. We pour all of our money into defending a little slice of this rock, when we could be out colonizing space. We have unfortunately made discoveries which we will be unable to study until our species evolves much more. We know almost nothing about physics, and what goes on in deep space. Technology has to develop MUCH more, which wont happen for several hundred years.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
      • Robb

        Responding to your comment "Kepler would only detect planets whose orbital paths transit the star in the direction Kepler is looking from". That's exactly my point. With the simple math I did, the chances are about 1 in 200 that a planet about the same distance from it's star as Earth is from the Sun would ever transit across that star on a path visible from our direction. Not very good odds. I've also read of a technique used where the "wobble" of a star from planetary gravitation is measured, and the existence of planets can be deduced, but this appears to be different.

        As for the other comments – from the perspective of Kepler, space is two dimensional unless you have a way to magically move Kepler several billion miles "above" or "below" it's current viewing plane. Please let us know how you managed to accomplish that.

        January 10, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • gwf333

      It seems that the Earth's orbit does not always move in a completely planar orbit, is that correct ... anybody? Or is the orbit itself rotating as the Earth is in orbit? There must be some 3D movement so that the relative position of the planar orbit moves, therefor allowing a view from Earth with the sun and another planet with its star(s) ... so that we'd at some time see that other blip on the star? ??

      January 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Joe

      Imagine yourself in a different position in 3D space (Up/down) and your problem is solved. You're imagining a 2D universe.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • mikey

      That is the point, we only see those disturbances on other suns when we do see the planets that are edge on from our view...All the others we miss and will not see in this kind of observation.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  32. LOL

    Which one is Kolob?

    January 8, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Aezel

      Zoom in. Whichever one has the giant magic underwear factory.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
      • Smart Alex

        That made me smile...thanks

        January 8, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  33. LouAZ

    "We still don't know if Earth, as a planet that currently harbors life, is alone in the universe." WHAT ??? This is NOT CNN's Belief Blog ! Dumbest first line ever.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • sam

      Huh? It's a pretty good assumption that we're not the only life in the universe, but until we find proof of it it's ok to say we don't know...

      January 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
    • gwf333

      All we do 'know' is that Earth is the only habitable planet in the universe. That we know for sure ... because it's us (life) knowing it. The rest we guess, assume, theorize over, or conclude based on mathematical probability ... we've never seen any other life, so we don't 'know' it.

      January 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
      • Nicko

        Your first statement is incorrect. All we know is the Earth is habitable. Start there. Saying "the only" means you've vetted all other possibilities.

        January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
  34. mike

    could we possibly you know.. Start toward that planet made 100% of diamond? I bet the entire planet would be harvested in a year.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • RTC

      Good idea, only the value of diamonds would drop rather quickly πŸ™‚

      January 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  35. Tansar

    I would say, lets start one from scratch and keep Republicans and Demos out of it.

    It would be best place to live. πŸ™‚

    January 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • Smart Alex


      January 8, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  36. history bear

    1. how many planets are looking back at us and wondering if we support life?
    2. how the heck we gonna get there ?
    3. Are we then going to screw that planet like we have our own. If we are, it's better we never get out of the solar system.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
  37. citizenUSA

    Can't we find just one to send Honey Boo-Boo to?

    January 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • jersvette

      Don't forget her mother.

      January 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
      • Stephen

        Her mother is a planet.

        January 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Grandpa RD

      NASA couldn't afford to build a vehicle large enough to transport that family to anywhere, let alone the COST of the enormous amount of fuel it would take to get Momma 3 feet off of the ground!

      January 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  38. boatvolt

    This method would not seem to detect planets orbiting their respective stars in a different plane than one that blocks light visible to Kepler.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
    • doofus

      unless i'm misunderstanding the term, wouldn't the planet pass in front of the star regardless of it's plane? no matter the angle, it's going around the planet and will at some point cross in front of the star.

      January 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
      • Chris

        But it also has to pass between the star and Earth. With some math, we are able to only see ~1% of planets this way. There are still thousands we haven't even been able to see!

        January 8, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
      • boatvolt

        Draw a small circle on paper- that's the star. Now draw a larger circle around it- that's the orbit of the planet, and does not pass in front of the star.

        January 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • cucotx

      In the Milky Way, a large percentage of stars orbit the center of the galaxy on a plane close to the one that our Sun is on. Also, for most planetary systems, it seems that they also orbit their star on the same plane. This is my assumption, which may be completely wrong.

      Could some astronomer or someone with actual knowledge of this please correct me. Because, if correct, then it means that the technique used by Kepler would indeed detect a lot of planet crossings.

      January 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
      • mmjhf

        You don't need a professional astronomer to answer your question. Go outside tonight and look at the sky. You'll see that the Milky Way is not aligned with the ecliptic (or the 'zodiac'.) And there's no reason that our solar system would be on the same plane as the galaxy – the solar system formed billions of years after the formation of the galaxy. Kepler is looking at 150,000 stars – there are bound to be many planetary systems that are on close to the same plane as our solar system.

        January 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Literal

      This technique measures light to discover planets, so an orbit not passing between Earth and the Star may make the planet 'invisible' but it can still be discovered by the other planet hunting technique, the amount the star itself wobbles due to the planets orbit. If the star has a planet that does not obscure light due to our position versus the planets, it could still be discovered by the stars wobble moving up and down. Kepler is not the only planer hunter.

      January 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • mikey

      II agree, that is why there will be a majority of planets we can never detect with this process. However, if we really want to find planets similar to our own, we can't detect the wobble in the star as Earth sized planets just don't tug enough on the star with their own gravitational pull to be detected.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  39. cnnlicksit

    Has Uranus ever been probed?

    January 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  40. Sid Airfoil

    So we know that there are lots of Earth-sized planets in orbits that are in Mercury-sized orbits around Sum-like stars, and we know that there are lots of Neptune-sized planets that are in Earth-like orbits. It sounds like we need a next-generation probe to find Earth-sized planets in Earth-like orbits around Sun-like stars.

    Let's do it.


    January 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Sid Airfoil

      Sorry about the typos above. I'm at work and was in a rush.


      January 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • history bear

      Can't do that. Social spending is more important, and policing the world and making America safe for corporate profits. We're too short sighted.

      January 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
      • julnor

        Remember, we're $16 TRILLION in debt. I really like all of this space science, but at some point you have to justify spending this money to build a probe that ultimately gathers knowledge for no other purpose than to gather knowledge.

        January 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
      • Chris

        NASA's budget is $18 billion, which is 0.48% of the federal budget. The cost of the latest aircraft carrier is $13.5 billion. It's amazing NASA can do so much with so little.

        January 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
      • RTC

        @ Chris. Couldn't have said it better!

        January 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Michael John Anthony

      We have. It's called the James Webb Space Telescope.

      January 8, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  41. Mark

    It is interesting to speculate what alien Kepler probes have deduced about our solar system.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  42. smartaz

    That is a lot of global warming.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  43. Badly-Bent

    Gravity makes all the difference in the universe.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  44. alan s

    Astonishing, absolutely breathtaking, that astronomers can find planets thousands or even hundreds of thousands of light-years away. For all the stupid things people do, once in a while we do something brilliant, and this is an example.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  45. capnmike

    "A planet with a diameter of two to three times that of Earth would generally resemble Uranus"...And a perfect place to ship all the Republicans. They'd BELONG there.

    January 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • alan s

      Cap'n: What a disappointing comment.

      January 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • RicoSuave

      AGREE!! Including the bunch of retarded of the TEA PARTY!! Now Cantor and Boehner are fighting because both wants to drive the Spaceship!! LOLOLOLOLOL

      January 8, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  46. rad666

    Earth will become the ghetto of the Universe.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • pointless1

      What's to say it already isn't?

      January 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • history bear

      aren't we already?

      January 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  47. Joe

    I like how these articles present what we see as in the here and now... the light reaching us from these stars is millions of years old. A planet that we "see" today may have been sucked into its sun long, long ago.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Sharkey

      You're correct that the light from the observed stars has traveled a long time to reach Kepler's telescope, but the light is unlikely millions of years old. The Kepler mission is looking at a region of our own Milky Way galaxy; even if the light came from the farthest reaches of the galaxy, it would only be 120,000 years old. I'd have to double-check with the experts, but I believe most of Kepler's targets are much closer than that.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
      • LL

        Indeed. Most of the stars in Cygnus are within 5000 ly. Some are less than 100 ly away. Joe's comment reflects a general ignorance of basic science. Not understanding the relative distances to stars within our local area, local clusters, milkey way and outside galaxies is one error. The other is that stars do not "suck" planets into themselves. After completing fusion burninig on the main sequence - usually many millions to billions of years, stars may expand to consume their planets, as our sun is likely to do to Earth several billions of sears from now.

        January 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
      • Chris

        LOL, Zing!

        January 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • mikey

      No Joe, the light from a star 10 light years away reaches us in 10 years...We are looking at stars in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, not stars in other galaxies...The Milky Way is only 100,000 light years in diameter. It's only the other galaxies that are millions of light yeas away.

      January 16, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  48. BubbaCo

    If god would quit working on all these new planets, THIS one might be a better place.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • sachin

      That was good one πŸ™‚ True for man as well. We cannot handle one earth what will we do of these other planets.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
      • IO

        Leave this one behind for all those that can't seem stop fighting and bickering, and start fresh somewhere new, where there may still be some peace and quiet. And now we know why extraterrestrials have not made contact with us.....

        January 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • history bear

      we have this one and WE have screwed it up with over population, bad developement and numerous other sins. Maybe "god" just said the hell with us and has left us to suffer our own just rewards for our stewardship.

      January 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  49. F1G

    Meanwhile on this side of the celestial "tracks"...

    January 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm |


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