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We look for planets differently now

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

It turns out that other solar systems are not shedding much light on how ours came to be:

But as the menagerie of young planetary systems grows, researchers are struggling to square their observations with current theories on how our Solar System and others formed. Such ideas have been in turmoil ever since astronomers started discovering planets around distant stars — a list that now numbers in the thousands. The Solar System has rocky planets near the Sun and giant gas balls farther out, but the panoply of exoplanets obeys no tidy patterns. And the rule book for world-building is getting more complicated as researchers find evidence of planets in the process of being born. Still, astronomers hope that witnessing such birth pangs will shed light on how all planetary systems, including our own, came to be. “We see all kinds of structure in these disks, even at very young ages,” says Follette. “Even younger than we classically thought planets should form.” Rebecca Boyle, “These dusty young stars are changing the rules of planet-building” at Nature

But that is information too. And if it;ds not what we expected, we probably aren’t just imagining it.

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See also: Astronomers: First possible exomoon is the size of Neptune, and orbiting a “Jupiter”


ET life: We should look for planets like Earth’s past, not its present

Because of the limitations in the tools we use to observe the cosmos, the trend that we are seeing (i.e., large gas giants close to the sun) may be more due to observation bias than a true representative sampling. An analogy would be using fine-mesh nets to try to get a good representation of the life in the ocean. If the net is fine enough, you might conclude that the ocean is nothing but plankton. Fish and mammals would easily avoid the nets, and smaller life forms would easily pass though it. Ed George

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