Thursday, December 17, 2009

Earth-like Planet Discovered


As I shared within the past year, it was only a matter of time -- astronomers announced this week they found a planet relatively nearby that has water and is about two and a half times the size of our home planet. This new planet probably has too thick of an atmosphere and is too hot to support any life similar to that found on Earth, as it has an estimated temperature of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit -- I am truly amazed that we can gather so much information from such a great distance...approximately 40 light years away. This discovery is considered as a major breakthrough in humanity's search for life on other planets. "Super-Earth," as it is being called, has an astronomical designation GJ1214b. I think it should be called "the Big Boiler."

The new planet orbits a star that is much smaller and not as bright as our sun. This is significant in that many astronomers have just passed by any planets that would circle around smaller stars, because the assumption has been that any such star with a satellite would have to be at least as large as our own sun. In a way, the newly discovered planet was sitting right under astronomers' noses...instead of using high-powered telescopes attached to satellites, they spotted the planet using an amateur-sized, 16-inch telescope on the ground. Another very cool consideration is that this discovery of this planet goes a long way toward negating the notion that Earth-like planets could form only in conditions similar to those in our solar system. Most planets discovered by astronomers have been gas giants that are more similar to Jupiter than to Earth. And even though there is water on this planet, it is very not very similar to Earth in other respects...some of which have been mentioned. It is all fascinating to consider, however. Thank you, Lord for your wondrous works! Blessings,


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