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March 1 2009

NASA Prepares To Hunt For Earth-like Planets

planetsOn March 6th NASA will be launching the Kepler Mission to look for Earth-like planets in our “neighborhood” of the Milky Way. Don’t worry, no one will be visiting any time soon.

Over the next three years the mission will be studying 10,000 stars to try to find planets similar to Earth.  The there is that out of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy, at least several thousand have planets similar to Earth that are capable of sustaining some form of life.  If all goes according to plan, by the end of 2013, we will know the answer to this burning question.

Of course, just knowing these planets exist won’t prove that they have life, and it certainly isn’t like we can hop in the car to drive over and check for ourselves.  Even with out current fastest rocket it would take 10,000 years to reach the closest star to us.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland recently conducted a computer study to see if there was any chance of life just in our galaxy, and the results surprised everyone.  According to the computer model, 361 intelligent races emerged since the creation of the galaxy, and as many as 38,000 have formed.  This is a perplexing situation as physicist Enrico Fermi created the “Fermi paradox in 1950 that simply asks,  “Where is everybody?”

I think this has always been one of the key problems with people saying there is no life in the universe other than our own.  Setting aside the insanely narcissistic aspects of such an assumption, there is no rule it says it has to be intelligent.  To me life on other worlds can be as simple as a one celled amoeba, but so long as it is alive, it qualifies as life as far as I’m concerned.

milky waySpace.com made the graphic you see to the left that shows where we are located in our galaxy.  To put it in Earth bound perspectives, we live out in the absolute boondocks.  We are the babies of our galaxy, and it is quite possible that not only were there civilizations deeper in towards the core, they may have very well died off of old age by the time we even came into being.

People say that with a lack of evidence you can’t prove something exists, but in this particular case I take the oppisite tact of saying, “prove it doesn’t exist.”  Simple mathamatical odds overwhelmingly support there is life somewhere in our galaxy.  I know everyone would like them to just pop-up and go, “here we are!”, but that just isn’t going to happen, at least not during our lifetimes I imagine.

I dare you to go outside on a clear night and look up at the stars.  When you see the sheer number of them, I would say it is darn near impossible for anyone to say, “naw, there can’t be any life out there.”  Hopefully the Kepler Mission will find something of interest, but even if it doesn’t, I can’t say I would ever stop believing there is other life somewhere out there.



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