We're Not Alone: Astronomers Estimate There Are 10 Billion Planets Like Earth
From 2011-2014, Daniel Honan was the Managing Editor at Big Think. Prior to Big Think, Daniel was Vice President of Production for Plum TV, a niche cable network he helped launch in 2002. The production team he oversaw won over two dozen Emmy awards. Daniel has created numerous shows and documentaries for television, and his film credits include Stealing the Fire, a documentary on the black market for nuclear weapons technology.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielHonan
Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS telescope have studied over 100 nearby red dwarf stars over the last six years. 40 percent of these common stars were observed to wobble, a reaction caused by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet.
Based on this small sample, the astronomers crunched the numbers, and extrapolated the results to cover our entire Galaxy. In other words, instead of guessing, we can calculate that there are 10 billion potentially habitable planets in our Galaxy.
What are the characteristics of an Earth-like planet? They need to be in the so-called Goldilocks zone, which means they are neither too hot nor too cold to have liquid water which is necessary to support life as we know it.
Now let's consider life as we barely know it -- life that exists in the most extreme environments that exist on Earth such as where James Cameron has visited in his DeepSea Challenger. Or consider a type of bacteria that can live inside a nuclear reactor.
These are the types of life forms that Bill Nye, who heads The Planetary Society, calls "extremophile." In other words, these creatures like to live under extreme conditions (and would probably think humans are weird, Nye says). Nye told Big Think in a recent interview that if extremophiles are ubiquitous in our Galaxy, the possibility of life on another planet grows higher and higher.
Watch the video here:
Editor's note: Nye's latest effort called "Consider The Following" is a series of short videos in support of the ExploraVision Awards that are designed to get young people "excited about science so that we will have more scientists and especially engineers in the future so that we can—dare I say it—change the world."
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan
How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.
While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.
A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.
We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.
Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.
Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.