In “Newfound super-Earth might support life, scientists say” (MSNBC.com, , 2/2/2012), Denise Chow reports, “Potentially habitable planet detected in triple-star system just 22 light-years away”:
A potentially habitable alien planet — one that scientists say is the best candidate yet to harbor water, and possibly even life, on its surface — has been bl2 found around a nearby star.
The researchers estimate that the planet, called GJ 667Cc, is at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth, which makes it a so-called super-Earth. It takes roughly 28 days to make one orbital lap around its parent star, which is located a mere 22 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Scorpius (the Scorpion).
“Statistics tell us we shouldn’t have found something this quickly this soon unless there’s a lot of them out there,” Vogt said. “This tells us there must be an awful lot of these planets out there. It was almost too easy to find, and it happened too quickly.”
Hmmm. Isn’t that a bit like saying, “Statistics say I can’t have won the lottery on the third try! So I’ll win lots more!”? Maybe we need to refine our reasoning here.
We haven’t even established that the planet has water.
We also learn,
“The planets coming out of Kepler are typically thousands of light-years away and we could never send a space probe out there,” Vogt said. “We’ve been explicitly focusing on very nearby stars, because with today’s technology, we could send a robotic probe out there, and within a few hundred years, it could be sending back picture postcards.”
Okay, but to whom? Can we guarantee a future in which anyone would care? That’s worth thinking about in these times.
Follow UD News at Twitter!