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Astronomers announce discovery of ‘Super-Earth’ orbiting near habitable zone of nearby star (Slow News Day?)


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Exoplanet is latest in search for celestial objects capable of harboring life

Just the News staff

May 28, 2022

Scientists this week revealed the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting the habitable zone of a small nearby star, a potentially promising find in the ongoing search for planets in the universe that may harbor life.

A “habitable zone” is the distance from a star in which a rocky planet is close enough to receive warmth from the star’s energy but far enough to not be overheated by it; astronomers consider this range the “Goldilocks zone” in which life is most likely to develop. 

In a paper published in the journal Earth and Planetary Astrophysics, an international team of experts report the “discovery of a super-Earth planet on a 10.77-day orbit around the M4.5 dwarf Ross 508.” 

Ross 508 is located relatively close to Earth’s cosmic neighborhood, being situated about 36 light-years away from our planet. The astronomers in the paper said that the planet in question, Ross 508 b, is located “near the inner edge of its star's habitable zone.” 

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Probability Estimate  for Attaining the Necessary Characteristics for a Life Support Body

*2004

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Probability for occurrence of all *322 parameters ≈ 10-388

dependency factors estimate ≈ 10-96

longevity requirements estimate ≈ 1014

Probability for occurrence of all 322 parameters ≈ 10-304

Maximum possible number of life support bodies in universe ≈ 1022

Thus, less than 1 chance in 10282(million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion) exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.

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* Probably much more in the last 18 years.

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Are Earth-like Planets Common?

Dr. Michael G Strauss

Mar. 10 2018

It seems that every few months newspaper and magazine headlines will declare something like "Scientists have discovered an Earth-like planet." Such headlines probably lead the reader to imagine a planet with an environment much like we see on Star Trek or Star Wars where we could land our spaceship, take off our spacesuit, and frolic around the countryside. But what do scientists mean when they say that they have discovered an "Earth-like" planet? How likely is it to find a planet that can support higher life forms (defined as anything more complex than bacteria)? Are planets like the earth common or rare? Let's explore the answers to these questions.

When scientists say that an Earth-like planet may have been discovered, they actually mean one of three things. Either (1) the planet is in such an orbit around its central star that allows the temperature on the planet to possibly harbor liquid water, or (2) the planet is about the same size as the earth, or (3) the planet is solid and rocky rather than gaseous. Of course any one of these criteria, or even all three, does not actually give us a true Earth-like planet. We know that our moon is in the correct location to contain liquid water, but it is not "Earth-like." We know Venus is about the size of the earth, but it is not "Earth-like." We know that Mercury is rocky and not gaseous, but it is not "Earth-like." So none of these criteria really give an Earth-like planet. Headlines and sound-bites are not meant to be precise but to draw attention, and it is much more exciting to proclaim an "Earth-like" planet has been found rather than a "Venus-like" planet (if even that could be claimed).

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An enlightening book on this subject is Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universeby Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, published in 2000. One of my favorite chapters in the book is titled "The Surprising Importance of Plate Tectonics" which documents why plate tectonics is required in order for complex life to survive. Having lived 23 years of my life in California, I am well acquainted with the consequences of plate tectonics, but had no idea that such activity was crucial for my survival. Ward and Brownlee document how plate tectonics not only forms and maintains continents, but promotes biological diversity, regulates global temperature, and helps maintain a planetary magnetic field. They write, "It may be that plate tectonics is the central requirement for life on a planet and that it is necessary for keeping a world supplied with water," (p. 220).

The astrophysicist Hugh Ross has done a rough estimate of the probability of finding a single planet that could support even simple unicellular life for a sustained period of time. Including correlations and longevity factors, and assuming there are 10 billion trillion planets in the visible universe, he concludes that the probability of finding a single planet that could support unicellular life for a prolonged period of time is 1 in 10556, (see Part B of this document). If this informed estimate is even close to being correct, then there are no other planets in the visible universe that can support life.

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In a talk Michael Strauss gave he quotes an astronomer "I wish the press would stop saying we've found Earth Like Planets. Because We Haven't!"
 

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