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Rob Sheldon: The skinny on those ten new exoplanets


As in:

NASA said Monday it has found new evidence of 219 planets outside our Solar System. Ten of those exoplanets appear to be similar to the size of the Earth and orbit their stars in the habitable zone.

From our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon

The Kepler telescope had a glitch in 2013 that prevented it from taking any more data. This press release records the final batch of data analysis and the completion of the Kepler planet-finding mission. Most of these 2000 candidates have yet to be verified by other telescopes, so they remain “candidates” or KOI (Kepler Objects of Interest). Filtering the data for Earth-sized planets circling Sun-like stars, came up with a list of about 10. Of principal interest is the “most” earth-like, KOI 7711, which is 30% larger than Earth, a supposed period of 1 year, and a G-type star.

This is a far cry from the red-dwarf system that had 7 planets around a star that barely glowed deep red, and the “year” was as short as 3 days.

Should these candidates pan out, they would be followed up with extensive telescope time trying to detect water or oxygen in the atmosphere–the so-called bio-signatures of life. But until NASA launches a follow-up mission, there won’t be any more candidates.

See also: Exoplanets: Robbing the term “Earth-like” of meaning

Just for fun:

jstanley01: Good point. Definitely one way to look at it! Eric Anderson
I don't see how the unsurprising fact that planets similar to earth are sprinkled across the universe helps the materialists, when OOL is their biggest hurdle. I'm no mathematician, that's for sure, but seems to me that one new planet with life, requiring its own OOL, doubles their probability problem. jstanley01
OK, so as expected, you didn't answer the question. Your comment @13 really just amounts to a "creationists are foolish" and "science is good and will provide all the answers" philosophy. You're certainly welcome to hold whatever view you want. Just don't pretend it is objective. You haven't addressed the issues or done any of the math to support your claim that finding extrasolar planets somehow addresses the probability problems with evolution or makes the naturalistic creation story inevitable. When you are actually ready to start dealing with evidence, let us know. Eric Anderson
EA, in answer to your question @4. Finding earth like planets (which is one of two of the James Webb's telescopes principle functions; the other taking snapshots of the universe as it was in infancy), proves the science works. That is, the theories and indeed inferred positions taken by scientists as far back as the early 20th century about how our solar system came to be as it is, have been proven conclusively correct. Spinning clouds of gas, originating from an ancient source, the BB, coalesced to form suns, lesser clouds formed planets, some in positions around their stars permitting solid ground, and flowing water. From here the other scientists take over, with their equally supported inferences and hypotheses. In each case, cosmological, or biological the overwheening evidece supports the theories. I suppose evolutionary biology, when viewed by creationists at least, is just waiting for its James Webb moment. I specify creationists BTW, because the rest of us are of the mind of our 1970s counterparts, who simply saw the logical argument of the cosmologists and new there were exo-planets. Sure the creationists constantly chuckled and said, 'where are they', to which our reply, 'the physical science mandates their existance.' The same answer is relevant to creationists today, 'the physical evidence dictates evolution.' And we who accept evolution don't need a James Webb moment, the evidence is just too overwhelming. rvb8
rvb8 @11: I have never followed Gish or Morris much, but if they said what you quoted and if they have indeed long and loudly argued against the possibility of habitable planets and life outside our solar system, then they deserve your reprimand. Both for unsupported claims regarding the science and also for their poor understanding of theology that, unfortunately, led them to a position that is untenable. I have no desire to defend someone else's poor science or theology. The question on the table, however, is not whether some other person in the past has made a poor theological argument and been shown wrong. The question is what the science at hand shows. The evidence we have, not based on theology or some other philosophical stance, but on a better understanding of the parameters that Earth has, as well as (now) thousands of samples, is that the Earth is quite rare. Is Earth unique throughout the universe in its ability to sustain complex sentient life? Probably not. Granted, we don't have any evidence that there are other similarly-habitable planets, but we have just begun the search and there are a tiny number of potential candidates at least, so I would certainly be open to the possibility of other similarly-habitable planets.* So where does that leave us? 1. There are definitely other planets. Many of them. 2. Earth-like planets are not ubiquitious around other stars. So estimates like Koonin's (quoted by Chris Haynes) are way off the mark. 3. The range of possible planetary systems (orbits, types of stars, wandering planets, inner massive giants, etc.) is far broader than was appreciated previously. In other words, the target space or the search space available to natural formation processes is now known, by observation not just theory, to indeed be massive. 4. There may be some other Earth-like planets, but they will be few and far between. Earth is not just an ordinary planet around an ordinary star, as some materialists have been wont to maintain. Earth is quite rare, if not unique. Finally, I would reiterate, in regards to your comments @1, that none of the exoplanet discoveries over the recent two decades contributes positively to the likelihood of biological evolution. Quite the contrary. Just getting a favorable place for the evolution of complex intelligent life is turning out to be more difficult than the optimistic estimates, like that of Koonin above. So my question to you @4 still stands. I would suggest that you temper your tendency toward the knee-jerk reaction that each new discovery must be viewed as more evidence for the materialistic creation story. For those willing to view the evidence objectively, the trajectory of the evidence is definitely flowing in the opposite direction. ----- * I have to confess that I am also somewhat excited about the prospect and would love for us to find another Earth-like planet. This would be a most interesting and remarkable discovery. But I have to keep my enthusiasm in check and acknowledge that, so far, the evidence for another Earth-like planet is still quite thin. Eric Anderson
chris haynes, thanks for the zeroes, which make my brain ache. Why can't creationists do what NASA does and send up a satellite with the fidelity of James Webb to prove their negative theory? Get a creationist billionaire to fund it, they all ready fund anual hunts for the arc. Trillions of stars have orbiting planetary bodies. This is a fact and this is all I am saying. Eric Anderson @5, your data is probably accurate, but we can't be sure as we have only just recently, (the last 25 years) had the tools necessary to do the looking. Quote from Henry Morris in the 1970s; "The earth is unique in the solar system, and for all we know, the solar system is unique in the universe. So far as we can observe, there are not even any planets any where else, let alone a planet equipped to support biological life." Probably at some church, with the congregation knowingly shaking their collective head at the naievity of scientists. I post this quote because by the 1970s and well before astronomers were already certain extra-solar planets existed. They knew how our solar system evolved and the idea that each sun evolved in the same way following the same physical laws was certain. Duane Gish, and Mr Morris made careers out of touring churches raising chuckles at the stupidity of this theory, and here we are today. Now the creationists are in full back peddal, 'sure there are lots of planets but none to sustain life.' What next? When the JWST begins finding rocky planets in the habitable zone, with clear evidence of water, what then? "Yeah but where's the life?" As creaationists are wheeled into tinier and tinier circles, their shrill cries are indeed becoming more desperate. "Why waste money on the James Webb, when there are starving children?" Fair point, to which I reply, "sorry, we're evolved that way, we're just too curious; at least some of us are." rvb8
JDH, sobering thought on how self-misled or outright self-deceived we can be. The picture that comes to my mind is setting up a crooked yardstick as standard. Once done, then what is really true and upright [carpentry senses, which are related] cannot pass the test as they are already aligned to reality. This is why we need plumbline, independent tests that can directly falsify a crooked yardstick. One of these in my view is the idea that we can get functional coherence and linked functionally specific, complex organisation and information for free, from in effect incrementally functionally filtered noise. KF kairosfocus
Thanks, JDH. I was trying to give rvb8 (or anyone else who might take the position he took @1) the benefit of the doubt. :) It seems that not understanding the issues and not having looked at the math is less of an indictment than having such an internal bias that someone would be "blind to the issues" and would not accept the math, even after seeing it. But unfortunately you might be right in some cases. In which case it becomes very difficult to have a rational discussion, because we are dealing with underlying biases, rather than an objective discussion of the issues. However, we press on in the hope that even in those cases an objective discussion can, occasionally, cause someone to sit up and take note of their internal bias and maybe, just maybe, change it or at least modify it slightly. Eric Anderson
Eric Anderson said
This is because such people don’t understand the issues and haven’t bothered to look at the math.
Eric - this is one of the few times I have to disagree with you. I find that really logical and intelligent people can, through their internal bias, somehow intentionally allow themselves to hold completely irrational positions. I do not think that people think completely rationally or irrationally. I believe that most people choose to allow themselves to hold irrational beliefs about some things. I think it is a mistake if we think of rvb8 or Seversky as people who can't follow rational arguments, don't like math, or don't understand some issues. I think they probably have very many issues they think about quite rationally. I just assume that in the case of issues surrounding evolution and OOL - they allow themselves to be blind to the issues. I think that this "allowing themselves to hold irrational opinions about some things" is intentional and will be judged by God. JDH
Bob O'H:
At the very least, this study does raise the question of how many privileged planets there are in the universe.
This is definitely a very interesting question and one that a lot of time and energy is being devoted to. Personally, I hope we find some other Earth-like planets. That would be very cool! Now we need to just come up with a reasonable way to travel there. :) Eric Anderson
Perhaps the more interesting sociological question is why someone would think that finding another Earth-like planet is supportive of evolutionary theory or contrary to design theory. This is because such people don't understand the issues and haven't bothered to look at the math. Eric Anderson
chris haynes: Good points. Just one correction:
Dr Koonin estimated . . . that there is one earthlike planet for every 10 stars. . . . However, the data presented here suggests that there may be more earthlike planets, perhaps 10 for every star.
There are definitely not 10 per star. In fact, the data show that Earth-like planets are even much more rare the 10% Koonin figure you cite. Out of many thousands of stars surveyed so far, about 2,607 have been found to have planets around them. Of those several thousand planets, approximately 362 are likely to be terrestrial planets. Of those, perhaps 24 are potentially somewhat Earth-like. So, even within known solar systems, less than 1% of those stars have a planet that is even plausibly Earth-like. And that is even without carefully considering many other factors that are important for Earth: magnetic field, quantity of water, stabilizing moon, and on and on. Then we have to consider the type of star, other planets in the system, stability of the orbit, and so on. It is highly unlikely that even 1/10th of 1 percent of stars will have an Earth-like planet around them. I agree all of this doesn't change the odds much, but it is important to note. Eric Anderson
Well a flip side to that argument is that with trillions of stars orbited by a few or several exo-planets points to the innevitability of extra-terrestrial life, in any form.
How does finding other Earth-like planets make extra-terrestrial life likely -- or "inevitable," as you say? And why would finding extra-terrestrial life have any bearing on the design inference? Eric Anderson
At the very least, this study does raise the question of how many privileged planets there are in the universe. Bob O'H
Thank you, RVB8, for once again displaying your ignorance of the problem of probability in Origin of Life research. Let us Creationists suggest that you brush up on some of the relevant work. In this case, try the work of Dr Koonin of the NIH's NCBI. In his 2007 paper "The cosmological model of eternal inflation and the transition from chance to biological evolution in the history of life", Dr Koonin estimated that the odds of life originating on an earth like planet in 14 billion years are 1 in 10^1042 That's 1 in 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, followed by 1000 more zeros. Low odds. Dr Koonin estimated that the odds that life would originate once, in 14 billion years, in the entire known universe are 1 in 10^1018, based on an estimate that there is one earthlike planet for every 10 stars. 1 in 10^1018 is also low odds. However, the data presented here suggests that there may be more earthlike planets, perhaps 10 for every star. Thus he should have reported odds on 1 in 10^1016, or 1 in 1 in 1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, followed by only 976 more zeros. I hope you agree 1 in 10^1016 is still low odds, so that issue of probability remains. Of course Dr Koonin is not a Creationist. So he offers a non Creationist explanation for the origin of life in the face of his hopeless odds. It is the last refuge of those poor Atheist Physicists and the laughingstock of Creationists, the infinite multiverse. chris haynes
When the James Webb Space Telescope is launched October 2018, the wealth of exo-planets >3300 so far, will grow exponentially. Scientists are now starting to realise, that it is likely that most stars will hve a few, if not several gravitationally trapped planetary bodies orbiting them. ID is fond of using the 'probability' argument to discount evolution, the numbers are against it they say, giving no evidence other than metaphors about decks of cards. Well a flip side to that argument is that with trillions of stars orbited by a few or several exo-planets points to the innevitability of extra-terrestrial life, in any form. rvb8

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