So far, our search for Martians and other extraterrestrial forms of life hasn't quite panned out, but that doesn't stop us from continuing to look. Now astronomers at the University of Hertfordshire in England have discovered a new system of planets, which in many ways are remarkably similar to our own neighborhood and may even support life.
Well, this is pretty damn exciting: astronomers have confirmed the detection of a planet just 1.13 times the size of Earth orbiting around Alpha Centauri B, which is part of the closest star system to Earth. At just 4.3 light-years away, it's potentially reachable in just a few decades with near-term technology, and now we've got a place to land. Er, sort of.
55 Cancri e was first identified back in 2004, but at the time scientists thought that it was covered in water and rocks, much like the Earth. We now know that's probably not true and, what's more, the most interesting find regarding 55 Cancri e could be under the surface.
Designing and building a new space telescope takes such a long time that even before Hubble 2.0 (the James Webb Space Telescope) has launched, astronomers are already working on Hubble 3.0, known right now as ATLAST.
Back in January of 2010, the Kepler Space Telescope was checking out a four-planet system called KOI-94, when it noticed something weird. Additional observations and recent analysis suggest that what Kepler saw was a double exoplanet transit, and since nobody's ever seen this before, astronomers have had to invent a brand new term to describe it: behold, an exosyzygy.
We love exoplanets here at DVICE. We just can't get enough of 'em. Over the last few years, astronomers have found a whole bunch of new worlds, some of which are potentially habitable by alien life, and a few of which may even be habitable by humans. But what exactly does "habitable" mean? What is it that we're looking for? The easy thing to say is that we're looking for a planet exactly like Earth, but really, it's a complicated question with a much more nuanced answer.
Our galaxy is a big place, but that doesn't mean we don't have any neighbors. There are a handful of stars close enough to Earth to be potential targets for exploration within our lifetimes. The hope was that one of the closest of these, Barnard's Star, just might have a habitable planet in orbit, but new observations show no signs of anything at all.
To date, the Kepler space telescope has probably identified at least 2,299 planets orbiting around other stars. 2,299 planets is a lot of planets, obviously, but this simulation that puts every single last one of them in orbit around the same star is a very visual, albeit very implausible, way of illustrating how many planets are out there.
We all grow up fantasizing about vaporizing the Earth, but only one of us gets to be the first to make it happen, and trust me, the rest of y'all are running out of time. In lieu of doing the real thing, some planetary scientists at are running Earth vaporizing simulations to help them figure out what alien worlds are made of.
We're big fans of the Gliese 581 system here at DVICE. It's been a treasure-trove of potentially habitable exoplanets, and the latest data boosts one of them, Gliese 581g, up to a whopping 0.92 on the Earth Similarity Index. Yes, we now have one of those.