Water Worlds: Has NASA Found Mirror Earths?

The Kepler Space Telescope might have hit the motherlode

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NASA

An artist's impression of Kepler 62f provided by NASA on April 18, 2013.

The search for Earthlike, habitable planets beyond the Sun has been something like a boulder rolling downhill ever since the Kepler space telescope went into orbit in 2009. Before that, ground-based astronomers had been finding so-called exoplanets one or two at a time, here and there in the cosmos, and pretty much all of them were far too large to be hospitable, or much close to the fires of their parent stars, or, usually, both.

But ever since Kepler soared into space and turned its relentless, unblinking eye on a single patch of stars and never looked away, it began notching discoveries at an ever-accelerating pace, finding more planets—and more nearly Earthlike ones—all the time. What’s more, it’s finding them in the so-called habitable zone, just the right distance from their stars to allow life-sustaining liquid water to exist.

Nobody quite imagined what the Kepler team has just announced, however. Writing in Science, William Borucki, Kepler’s principal scientist, along with dozens of collaborators, reports the discovery of not one, but two potentially life-sustaining planets, orbiting a star some 1,200 light-years away, in the constellation Lyra. One, named Kepler-62e, is about 60 percent larger than Earth, and lies at the inner, hotter edge of the habitable zone, where water might be awfully hot but still avoid boiling away. The second, Kepler 62f, is 40 percent larger than Earth and is more comfortably within the star’s just-right region. This, said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division at a press conference, “is really cool.” In astronomer-speak, that’s huge.

(MORE: Never Mind Life on Distant Planets, What About Distant Moons?)

Borucki and the other Kepler scientists were quick to say they had no direct evidence that either planet actually has liquid water on its surface. All they know for sure is the planets’ size, and their distance from the star: 33 million mi. (53 million km) out for the larger 62e; 65 million mi. (105 million km) for the smaller 62f.

In our solar system, that would make both planets too hot for water to stay liquid. But the star, Kepler 62, is only about two-thirds as large as the Sun, and significantly dimmer, so a planet can approach much closer and still be hospitable. Even so, it’s not just water that matters; the atmosphere has to be just right too. “The outer [planet],” said Lisa Kaltenegger, who has joint appointments at Harvard and at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Astronomy, “would need a lot of greenhouse gases to keep it warm, so you wouldn’t want to take off your face mask.”

The inner world, she said, could well be covered with a planet-wide ocean, if it has the same volume of water as Earth does relative to its size. That means it might be perpetually cloudy as well, since so much water so close to the star would result in a lot of evaporation.That’s a good thing, because the clouds would reflect some of the star’s heat, which might otherwise make the surface too hot.

(MORE: Name Your Own Exoplanet—For $4.99)

Neither planet, in short, would be exactly like Earth, either in size or in atmosphere, but astronomers are getting used to the idea that that isn’t really required for life anyway. “People have wanted to see an exact analog of Earth orbiting an exact analog of the Sun,” said Kaltenegger, and Kepler or another mission may yet find such a world. But if you’re looking for a place where life might have taken hold, he adds, a mirror Earth isn’t necessary.

For Borucki, who had to push NASA for more than a decade before finally getting Kepler approved in 2000, and had to work for nearly a decade more to get it built and launched, the discovery of the Kepler 62 system—which also has three non-habitable planets, dubbed 62b, c and d, and possibly more to be found—is an excuse to get just a little poetic.

Imagine standing on the outer of these two possibly habitable planets and gazing up into the sky, he says. The inner planet, 62e, would be about as far as Venus is from Earth—but it would be significantly larger. Venus is already the brightest object in our own night sky, after the Sun and the Moon, and 62e would be brighter still. “It would,” says Borucki, “be an amazing, beautiful jewel in the sky.”

(MORE: How a Pocket-Sized Satellite Could Find Another Earth)

94 comments
GetItRight
GetItRight

Ain't no sun in the night sky - that's what makes it night

BabuG.Ranganathan
BabuG.Ranganathan

HAVING THE RAW MATERIALS AND RIGHT CONDITIONS TO SUSTAIN LIFE doesn't mean that life can originate by chance or from non-living matter.

Proteins can't come into existence unless there's life first! Miller, in his famous experiment in 1953, showed that individual amino acids (the building blocks of life) could come into existence by chance. But, it's not enough just to have amino acids. The various amino acids that make-up life must link together in a precise sequence, just like the letters in a sentence, to form functioning protein molecules. If they're not in the right sequence the protein molecules won't work. It has never been shown that various amino acids can bind together into a sequence by chance to form protein molecules. Even the simplest cell is made up of many millions of various protein molecules.

Also, what many don't realize is that Miller had a laboratory apparatus that shielded and protected the individual amino acids the moment they were formed, otherwise the amino acids would have quickly disintegrated and been destroyed in the mix of random energy and forces involved in Miller's experiment.

There is no innate chemical tendency for the various amino acids to bond with one another in a sequence. Any one amino acid can just as easily bond with any other. The only reason at all for why the various amino acids bond with one another in a precise sequence in the cells of our bodies is because they're directed to do so by an already existing sequence of molecules found in our genetic code.

A partially-evolved cell (an oxymoron) can't wait million of years for chance to make it complete and then become living!

Please read my popular Internet articles listed below:

ANY LIFE ON MARS CAME FROM EARTH, SCIENCE AND THE ORIGIN OF LIFE, NATURAL LIMITS OF EVOLUTION, HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM, WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS (2nd Edition), NO HALF-EVOLVED DINOSAURS, DOES GOD PARTICLE EXPLAIN UNIVERSE'S ORIGIN?

Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

Sincerely,
Babu G. Ranganathan*
(B.A. theology/biology)

Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

* I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis "Who's Who In The East" for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities.

Mehmet Türkeş
Mehmet Türkeş

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John Valentine
John Valentine

Alvin, you're a hopeless idiot. NASA has played a major role in inventing & building technologies that even ignorants like you probably use in day to day life. Here are some of their most important inventions ........ - Water Filters - Communication Satellites - Long-distance Telecommunications - Adjustable Smoke Detectors - Memory Foam - CCDs (e.g.: Charge-coupled devices that possess the ability to "digitize" light into data) - Anti-corrosion Coating - Insulin Pump - ArterioVision (e.g.: ultrasound equipment to perform a noninvasive examination of a patient's carotid artery, which carries blood to the brain) - Cochlear Implants (hearing aid) - Cordless Tools - Shoe Insoles - Emulsified zero-valent Iron (a solution that can be injected into groundwater, where it neutralizes toxic chemicals that pose a threat to the environment) - Scratch-resistant (Eyeglass ) Lenses - Invisible (TPA) braces - Safety Grooving - Lifeshears

Mehmet Türkeş
Mehmet Türkeş

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DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

I'm pretty sure it's just me on this, but I can't help objecting to the terms "mirror Earth" and "twin Earth".  Call it a pet peeve. No exo-planet will actually be called a twin or even a mirror Earth by even the most liberal of mind - ever.  They aren't Earth.  Odds are they'll never be twins or mirrors of Earth.  They may be Earth-like, but a more scientific expression describing newly discovered, potentially habitable life-zone planets would be "potentially life-bearing planet".

To highlight this, both Mars and Venus are in the sun's "Goldilocks Zone", but I don't think anyone would call either of them a mirror Earth or a twin Earth.  Yet, this is what science reporters (and possibly scientists themselves) are doing in relaying badly described information to us.  All they know is that these planets are in a zone around a star where water might be in a naturally liquid state on the surface and about how big it might be ("might" being the operative word for both).  So call them PLBP's or, if one must be less descriptive, "Goldilocks Worlds".  But mirror Earth or twin Earth or anything that infers "earth-like" should be stricken from reporting unless or until such time that a planet with liquid water AND life is confirmed to have been found.

I prefer things to be accurately described.  It tends to reduce misunderstanding.  Scientists (and reporters) seem to forget that people are, in general, VERY average (I'm being nice for a change by saying that) and easily misinterpret even the most dummied-down descriptions.  In my opinion, it's better to describe something accurately and let the reader do the work of trying to figure out what you said (or remain ignorant) than it is to resorting to misleading, inaccurate similes largely subject to misinterpretation.

ESPECIALLY in science.

 (After all, look at what the more specific term "Global Warming" did and how the impression can be misinterpreted when people can't figure out the difference between climate and weather.  The term "Climate Change"  - being used now - is a much more accurate  description and we may have been spared the idiocy that followed using "Global Warming" had we used "Climate Change' to begin with.)

Let's keep it accurate, folks.  If people can't understand it, they have an Internet and Google to educate themselves on it, if it's something they can, or care to, learn about in the first pace.

Yes, I'm probably picking nits here, but to me, accuracy is more important than cutesy phrases to describe things.

Ogbodo Okechi
Ogbodo Okechi

All these are mere entatainment photos of unrealistic missions...congrates nasa.

Mehmet Türkeş
Mehmet Türkeş

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Indira Dayanna
Indira Dayanna

April 18, 2013: Kepler 62 and 69 systems announced: The Kepler mission has discovered two planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the habitable zone; Kepler 62 which has 5 planets and Kepler 69 which has 2 planets. See more details from the press release and explore these planets in the confirmed planet table. April 11, 2013: Three planets have been added to the list of Confirmed Planets: HD 204313 d, HD 222155 b and HD 24040 b. [These REFLECT Earth). March 28, 2013: The planet PH1 b (Kepler-64b) has been added to the list of Confirmed Planets. This planet was discovered by the Planet Hunters team and orbits a binary star. March 27, 2013: Kepler stellar table and new functionality released. The latest Exoplanet Archive release contains several new features: • A table of stellar properties for all stars observed by Kepler in Q1-12 is now available in an interactive table. To download the complete table, use the API: see the instructions (including links for different formats and tips to construct queries) or click here to download the complete table in IPAC table format. • All KOI tables are now displayed in a single interactive table with separate tabs for each table (i.e. Q1-6,Q1-8, cumulative, etc). Column selection and filtering will apply to all tabs, allowing easier comparison of values across KOI deliveries. • Minor updates to all interactive tables and plotting including automatic download of uncertainties and more descriptive labels for the user generated plots. March 21, 2013: Three planets have been added to the list of Confirmed Planets: WASP-71b, OGLE 2011-BLG-251L b, and HD 159868 c. March 7, 2013: The dispositions of 42 KOIs in the cumulative and Q1-8 tables were examined more rigorously and 5 of these KOIs have been changed to false positives. The subject KOIs can be viewed by sorting or filtering on the "Date of Last Update" column. The current number of planetary candidates in these tables is now 2,712. One planet has been added to the list of Confirmed Planets: WASP-80b. March 5, 2013: The Exoplanet Archive has released minor updates: Kepler Names Table now includes the 2MASS name and coordinates; the Explanet Archive API now includes access to the Kepler Names Table and an additional bar-delimited export format for all tables. Cited Works http://exoplanetarchive.ipac.caltech.edu/index.html

Bob Millar
Bob Millar

Keep funding science, stop funding the wars!

Darrel Riggs
Darrel Riggs

Don't worry, the universe was created for and all about you.

Wendy Pettibon Rapp
Wendy Pettibon Rapp

I would like to embrace hope for our species to survive and endure. For all of our self-depreciation, humans are fascinating in our abilities because we have infinite potential. We are creative, adaptive and fearless. I hope we live on in the universe- the best of us should.

Bo Fields
Bo Fields

Alvin you would complain if they hung you with a new rope I'm sure..idiot!

Mahmood Arshad
Mahmood Arshad

I am requesting to all international Media those are providing truth to the world that please check what is happening with Gen. Apml Pervaz Mushraf in Pakistan. Justice cross his limits and unjustice in on its top. Corrupt politicians, law enforcement departments and media in Pakistan all are against Only one Gen. Pervaiz Musharaf. I am requesting to you all that He was a great leader I am not any political person nor agent only an ordinary person who want democracy and law in Pakistan. I hope that all international Media will listen to my voice and will support justice..their are no boundaries for journalism So I am requesting.

Sandra Ankenbrand
Sandra Ankenbrand

That is exactely what you would have said to the expeditions of christoph columbus or the ideas of Leonardo da Vinci to create an aero-vehicle - a bit uneducated, sorry to say.

Anthony Fletcher
Anthony Fletcher

I've read up on this planets nasa found.they can only guess at what they look like.These are artist recreation portraits because 1 is 140 light years away and the farthest is 2400plus light years away,and for those who dont know a light year is around 7 trillion miles.so like I said there drawing draws ,but yes I believe god has others out there like us.Its still amazing what nasa can do,those are some of the brightest minds on the planet.

My New Life in Asia
My New Life in Asia

So now instead of wars and tensions between nations we can soon add wars and tensions between planets. Unless by meeting each other both will become wiser instead of greedier.

Alvin Sarong
Alvin Sarong

NASA is a very expensive entertainment institution using people's money or hard-earned taxes. You will gain no tangible benefit but only obscure pictures, artist's concept, and long list of irrelevant theories that can't be applied to reality of life.

Moses Delira
Moses Delira

READ ON OR DIE TONIGHT AT 10:35 P.M 9 years ago a person named Jerry got dared to sleep in a house that was believed haunted. The next day his friends waited for him outside the house...... They had to go inside and search for him. They went through every room exept the attic. He wasn't supposed to sleep there. He was supposed to sleep in the living room they went to the attic . They saw Jerry's corpse and they just left because they were scared. But that night they all died because of their friend. He killed them for making him sleep in that house if you don't send this to 11 comments you will die tonight by Jerry. Example 1: A man named Stewart read this and didn't believe it. He shut off his computer and went through his day. That night while he was in bed he heard something outside of his door. He got up to look. And now he's dead. Example 2: a girl named Haley read this in the morning and she got scared but she didn't send it. She wanted to now if it was true. She went to school (She was only 13 years old) and that night she died. If you don't post this on 11 comments Jerry will 'visit' you his isn't fake. Apperently if you copy and past this to ten comments in the next ten minuets you will have the best day of your life tomorrow. You will either get kissed or asked out, if you brake this chain you will see a little dead girl in your room tonight. In the next 53 minuets someone will say I love you or I'm sorry.

Jessica Montgomery
Jessica Montgomery

Well God is going to create a new heaven and earth.. It's not a secret..

Jeff May
Jeff May

Look out - Melancholia has been found lol.

Henry Martinez
Henry Martinez

NOPE, they just want money... like everyone else does.. of course.

Thomas Le Mignan
Thomas Le Mignan

There is no mirror Earth. Just new horizons and grounds ;)

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@BabuG.Ranganathan 

As long as you are going to go on to a long winded speech about bad science using big words followed by invoking a magical being you are going to appear like an idiot.

abiogenesis has its problems but at least it isnt a joke like your belief structure and to claim evolution is flawed with your inadequate background education is simply laughable.

A degree in theology lol.... wish i could get a degree in spoon bending.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@BabuG.Ranganathan 

So you take your problems and then invoke a giant bearded man in the sky who magics things into being..... that is some science there