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New scientific discoveries have Editor excited

By Adam Troxtell
On February 21, 2012

Those of us on Earth all grew up thinking the same thing: we are one of a kind. There was always this sense of pride, knowing our planet, out of all of the other ones in our solar system, supports so much life. It can make you a little bigheaded. Well, my fellow Earthlings, this ability to boast about our beautiful, original planet might soon come to an end.

In more recent years, the search for Earth-like planets has shown us we may not be alone in this vast universe. Thanks to the Kepler space telescope, we know of many planets that are the same size as Earth, harbor water and exist in a habitable zone – a specific place where temperatures would be suitable for life, as we know it, to exist. Kepler 22-b is the most exciting find yet, as it is similar to Earth in size and has an average temperature of 22 degrees Celsius (or 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Just today, a story came out about an exoplanet – those that exist outside of our sun's influence – that has a mass of mostly water. This is such a big deal because we know water must exist for life, as we have observed, to exist.

That particular planet is a bit warm now, but the bigger question is where was it before its star became a red-dwarf? We know stars go through cycles. Our own will become a red-giant in billions of years. So, the planets seen orbiting the very stars that exist in our night sky existed in different conditions than they do now. It will obviously take time to know for certain if a planet is exactly like Earth. Even the scientists who found Kepler 22-b do not know if it is made up of mostly rock, gas or liquid. But, the very thought of such a planet existing is enough to cause excitement.

Think about what would change if a planet were found that is almost exactly like our own. Many questions would be answered, but so many more would be asked. Are we really alone in the universe? What does this mean for the things we have been taught and are still teaching?

I believe some of the popular scientific theories and religious teachings of today can coexist and go hand-in-hand; however, it would be difficult not to reconsider many things if an Earth-like planet were found. That is what interests me about this search. We have so many questions about our planet, our solar system and our universe. How amazing would it be to have some of those questions even partially answered?

I encourage anyone to read up on exoplanets and the search for Earth-like planets currently taking place. Regardless of what you believe, it is incredible how much is really out in that big black thing we call a sky. The possibilities could be endless, and I for one cannot wait until scientists discover more.

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