The existence of alien life isn’t a matter of “if”, but “where”. With the new research, finding of which distant planets host or can host life beyond Earth is now easier than decades ago. The so-called habitable zone of young planets have been discovered by scientists to be wider than previously imagined, making Earth-like planets more evident.
Astronomy professor Lisa Kaltenegger from Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences said that searching for new, inhabitable worlds is one of the most exciting activities human beings are currently doing, and finding infant Earth-like planets adds another piece to the puzzle. Kaltenegger explained that surprises in the search for planets like Earth make it so exciting. Astrophysical Journal Letters will publish a new study on the January 1, 2015 issue.
Habitable zones are planets that are not too hot and not too cold. They also have an indication of the presence of water, one of the essential ingredients of life to exist. Astronomers are now focusing on star-orbiting planets and hope to find some at their young age. Research associate at Cornell, Ramses M. Ramirez, said that next generation ground-based telescopes could make finding young stars less difficult because they are easier to recognize when the Habitable Zone is farther out.
Astronomers have already reached distance regions of the universe, but there are a lot of galaxies to cover. Billions of stars are estimated to exist in the universe, and it is a challenge for the researchers to determine which among them have signs of life, which involves a set of complex equations, intuition, and sometimes luck.
Determining the size of a planet and its distance from a star are just two of several techniques at astronomers’ disposal for locating planets with conditions suitable for life. In a report by the Telegraph, scientists can find planets 3 to 5 times the mass of Earth as of the moment, but time will come in the near future that planets much smaller than Earth could also be observed.
According to an estimate by scientists, tens of billions of planets are candidates of supporting life in Milky Way alone. However, they don’t believe that every Earth-like planet has alien life because other conditions should be met, such as the atmosphere should be just sufficient for life.