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Researchers: Habitable zone is probably narrower than hoped

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An illustration of a number of the different kinds of planets found by Kepler all lined up in a row.
types of planets Kepler found/NAA

Various researchers have claimed that there could be 40 billion to 100 billion habitable planets in the Milky Way but recent research throws cold water on that:

These results are certainly encouraging, since they suggest that the Milky Way could be teeming with life. Unfortunately, more recent research into extra-solar planets has cast doubt on these previous estimates. This is especially the case where tidally-locked planets that orbit M-type (red dwarf) stars are concerned.

In addition, research into how life evolved on Earth has shown that water alone does not guarantee life – nor, for that matter, does the presence of oxygen gas. Further to this, Schwieterman and his colleagues considered two other major biosignatures that are essential to life as we know it – carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Matt Williams, “Complex Life Might Require a Very Narrow Habitable Zone” at Universe Today

He goes on to raise many additional issues as well.

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See also: Astrophysicist: Alien Hunters, Please Stop Using The Drake Equation

6 Replies to “Researchers: Habitable zone is probably narrower than hoped

  1. 1
    tjguy says:

    And, on top of that, it is not just the habitable zone that is important here. Scientists are finding a lot more things that must be true of a planet in order for life to exist. These requirements place and even greater restriction on the number of planets that could truly support life. As the probability of life on other planets falls, the Materialists must up their faith to counter it.
    This article mentions the composition of the planet as being important for life as well.
    https://crev.info/2017/09/facing-reality-6-elements-richter/

    Quote from the article: “Probability: Running the Numbers

    Let’s look at the big picture now – the really big picture: the universe. It is estimated that there 100 billion galaxies (1011), each with 100 billion stars. That results in 1022 stars. Say that only one in 10,000 is a dwarf main sequence G2 star which, as we saw, is the most stable star for a habitable zone. That leaves 1018 possible host stars. That’s a quintillion—still a lot of stars! Let’s say that only one of 10,000 of these stars has a planet in the habitable zone; that now gives us 1014 candidate planets (a hundred trillion). Let’s further grant a generous 10% chance that any of the required features would “happen” to be present in any one planet (I think a 1% chance would even be high). All of these features have to be present simultaneously for there to be any chance of complex life existing. The factors below are listed in the documentary The Privileged Planet, mentioned earlier.

    Located within the galaxy habitable zone 10%
    A stable star with constant energy output 10%
    A planet formed within the habitable zone around the star 10%
    A planet in a stable orbit maintaining a steady distance from the star 10%
    Protected by gas giant planets in the solar system 10%
    A rotation speed of about 24 hours 10%
    A planet with a suitable atmosphere: oxygen-rich, depth, circulation 10%
    A planet with the appropriate mass 10%
    A planet with abundant water 10%
    A reasonable ratio of water to land mass 10%
    A crust capable of plate tectonics 10%
    A magnetic field within the proper strength range 10%
    A moon of the proper size, distance, and orbit around the planet 10%
    A readily available source of abundant carbon compounds 10%
    Trace elements of the right type and quantity 10%

    One could go on and on, adding more factors, but these are a few of the most essential features to consider. So let’s multiply that out: 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 × 0.1 = 10-15. This probability times 1014 candidate planets leaves 10-1 planets, less than one! If I had used a 1% probability instead of 10% (more reasonable), that would have reduced the overall probability to 10-30, yielding 10-16 habitable planets out of the hundred trillion candidate planets. This implies that even one habitable planet in the whole universe has less than one quadrillionth a chance of being found! With a probability this small, changing the order of magnitude of our estimates for the number of stars is not going to make much difference.”

  2. 2
    PeterA says:

    “research into how life evolved on Earth has shown that water alone does not guarantee life – nor, for that matter, does the presence of oxygen gas.“

    Wow! That’s a unexpectedly striking revelation! What a breakthrough discovery!
    How did they figure that out?
    Wow!

    🙂

    Ok, jokes aside, the valid reaction to the quoted statement must be:

    Well, duh!

  3. 3
    jstanley01 says:

    The searches for extraterrestrials, and indeed Gavriil Tikhov’s coining of the term “astrobiology” in 1953, got underway when confidence in just-so Darwinism was at its peak. Nowadays, when so many evolutionary backstories have been demonstrated to be manifestly not so, and when the field itself has been harvesting nothing but goose eggs for its entire existence, bright students are going to be picking other endeavors to dedicate their careers to.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    In the article they stated:

    “At present, 3,917 planets have been confirmed in 2,918 star systems, while 3,368 await confirmation. Of these, about 50 orbit within their star’s circumstellar habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks Zone”) , the distance at which liquid water can exist on a planets’ surface.”

    In November, Dr Hugh Ross noted:

    (Our) Rare Solar System Gets Rarer – Hugh Ross – November 5, 2018
    Excerpt: Astronomers have detected and measured the mass and/or orbital features of 3,869 planets in 2,887 planetary systems beyond the solar system.1 This ranks as a staggering rate of discovery, given that the first confirmed detection of a planet orbiting another hydrogen-fusion-burning star was as recent as 1995.2 What do the characteristics of these systems reveal about potential habitability for advanced life?,,,
    How many of the known multiple-planet systems exhibit these life-essential features? The answer for the 638 known multi-planet exoplanetary systems is zero.13 How about the known exoplanetary systems where only one planet has been discovered? Of these 2,249 systems, they either lack a cold Jupiter closer than 14 times Earth’s distance from the Sun or the planet they contain possesses characteristics that would rule out the possible existence of another planet in the system capable of sustaining advanced life.
    The presumption back in 1995 was that astronomers would find many exoplanetary systems where the probability of advanced life possibly existing in that system would be greater than zero. More than twenty-three years later, with a database of 2,888 planetary systems and 3,877 planets, only one planetary system and only one planet possess the characteristics that the possible existence of advanced life needs. It requires little effort to discern the identity of that single planetary system and single planet.
    https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/11/05/rare-solar-system-gets-rarer

    Also of note:

    Why so many ‘Earth-like’ planets wind up being bogus – Terrence McCoy – January 7, 2015
    Excerpt: In June 2011, after several promising planets either proved to be figments or balls of heat and radiation, Harvard astrophysicist Howard Smith said we’re alone in the universe.
    “We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own,” he said. “They are very hostile to life as we know it…. Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....38;hpid=z3

    The “Goldilocks Zone” is touched upon at the 2:30 minute mark of the following video:

    Privileged Planet (Chapter 4 of 12)
    https://youtu.be/HtjyUElU6n0?list=PLbzQ4aXdqWD-9kjFsSm-cxNlzgrkJuko7&t=152

    In the following article Dr. Hugh Ross mentions many other factors that are necessary. Essential factors for life that are often completely overlooked by researchers,

    Linked from Appendix C from Dr. Ross’s book, ‘Why the Universe Is the Way It Is’;
    Probability Estimates for the Features Required by Various Life Forms:
    Excerpt:
    Requirements to sustain bacteria for 90 days or less:
    Probability for occurrence of all 501 parameters approx. 10-614
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-303
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^22
    Probability for occurrence of all 501 parameters approx. 10^-333
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^311 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.

    Requirements to sustain unicellar life for three billion year:
    Probability for occurrence of all 676 parameters approx. 10^-859
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-303
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^22
    Probability for occurrence of all 676 parameters approx. 10^-578
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^556 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracle

    Requirements to sustain intelligent physical life:
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. 10^-1333
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-324
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^45
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. 10^-1054
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^1032 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracle
    http://d4bge0zxg5qba.cloudfron.....3_ver2.pdf

    One interesting factor that often gets overlooked in calculating the probability of another planet hosting life is that there is no reason why the orbit of any given planet should stay within a star’s circumstellar habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks Zone”) for any extended period of time.

    “Research now establishes that every planet in our solar system must possess exactly the masses and orbits that they do for advanced life to be possible on Earth. No other known planetary system comes anywhere close to having the features to make advanced life possible. We live not only on a miraculously “rare” Earth but also a miraculously “rare” planetary system. For details and documentation, see my latest blog post. ”
    – Hugh Ross – June 2017

    Is the Solar System Stable? By Scott Tremaine – 2011
    Excerpt: So what are the results? Most of the calculations agree that eight billion years from now, just before the Sun swallows the inner planets and incinerates the outer ones, all of the planets will still be in orbits very similar to their present ones. In this limited sense, the solar system is stable. However, a closer look at the orbit histories reveals that the story is more nuanced. After a few tens of millions of years, calculations using slightly different parameters (e.g., different planetary masses or initial positions within the small ranges allowed by current observations) or different numerical algorithms begin to diverge at an alarming rate. More precisely, the growth of small differences changes from linear to exponential:,,,
    As an example, shifting your pencil from one side of your desk to the other today could change the gravitational forces on Jupiter enough to shift its position from one side of the Sun to the other a billion years from now. The unpredictability of the solar system over very long times is of course ironic since this was the prototypical system that inspired Laplacian determinism.
    Fortunately, most of this unpredictability is in the orbital phases of the planets, not the shapes and sizes of their orbits, so the chaotic nature of the solar system does not normally lead to collisions between planets. However, the presence of chaos implies that we can only study the long-term fate of the solar system in a statistical sense, by launching in our computers an armada of solar systems with slightly different parameters at the present time—typically, each planet is shifted by a random amount of about a millimeter—and following their evolution. When this is done, it turns out that in about 1 percent of these systems, Mercury’s orbit becomes sufficiently eccentric so that it collides with Venus before the death of the Sun. Thus, the answer to the question of the stability of the solar system—more precisely, will all the planets survive until the death of the Sun—is neither “yes” nor “no” but “yes, with 99 percent probability.”
    https://www.ias.edu/about/publications/ias-letter/articles/2011-summer/solar-system-tremaine

    Weird Orbits of Neighbors Can Make ‘Habitable’ Planets Not So Habitable – May 2010
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....143419.htm

    Of related interest, LaPlace, who atheists often try to claim as one of their own, once quoted Leibniz criticism of Newton favorably,

    “Leibniz, in his controversy with Newton on the discovery of infinitesimal calculus, sharply criticized the theory of Divine intervention as a corrective of the disturbances of the solar system. “To suppose anything of the kind”, he said, “is to exhibit very narrow ideas of the wisdom and power of God’.”
    – Pierre-Simon Laplace

    As to not having to “remedy the defects of His creation”, I hold that both Newton and Leibniz (and even Laplace) would be very pleased by what modern science has now revealed about the wisdom and power of God:

    “You might also think that these disparate bodies are scattered across the solar system without rhyme or reason. But move any piece of the solar system today, or try to add anything more, and the whole construction would be thrown fatally out of kilter. So how exactly did this delicate architecture come to be?”
    R. Webb – Unknown solar system 1: How was the solar system built? – New Scientist – 2009

    Of supplemental note, there are many other ‘habitable zones’ that must be taken into account rather than just the ‘circumstellar habitable zone’ (aka. “Goldilocks Zone”)

    The Known Habitable Zones (For a Planet) – Hugh Ross – December 2016
    Excerpt: in addition to the water habitable zone, there are seven other known habitable zones.
    1. Water habitable zone
    2. Ultraviolet habitable zone
    3. Photosynthetic habitable zone
    4. Ozone habitable zone
    5. Planetary rotation rate habitable zone
    6. Planetary obliquity habitable zone
    7. Tidal habitable zone
    8. Astrosphere habitable zone
    ,,, Typically, these zones do not overlap,,, A planet is a true candidate for habitability only if it simultaneously resides in all eight habitable zones. So far, the only known planet that dwells in all eight is Earth.,,,
    Now, a ninth habitable zone has been discovered—
    9. Electric wind habitable zone.6
    http://www.salvomag.com/new/ar.....-space.php

    Bottom line, the earth is far more unique in this universe than many people realize. Even the Cosmic Background Radiation itself gives proof for this:

    Cosmic Microwave Background Proves Intelligent Design (disproves Copernican principle) (clip of “The Principle”) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htV8WTyo4rw

    In other words, the “tiny temperature variations” in the CMBR reveal teleology, (i.e. a goal directed purpose, a plan), that specifically included the earth from the start. ,,, The earth, from what our best science can now tell us, is not some random cosmic fluke as atheists presuppose but was intended from the very start of the universe.

    Genesis 1:1
    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

  5. 5

    BA,
    posting ads in your comments? Really? Or is that just a new feature of the comment section?

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Robert Sheldon,

    It is just a new, annoying, feature, in that the last comment in the thread will be interrupted by an advertisement.

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