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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Is Earth special?: Found! Twenty light years away - the new earth ... or not?

According to Britain's Daily Mail, a recently discovered planet
appears to confirm the suspicions of most astronomers that the universe is swarming with Earth-like worlds.

I would be very surprised if most astronomers believed that, considering the odds. A few planets like Earth? Sure, that stands to reason. But "swarming" - not likely.

Even the hyper Mail admits,
Of the 220 or so exoplanets found to date, most have either been too big, made of gas rather than solid material, far too hot, or far too cold for life to survive.

The hype is, "We don't yet know much about this planet, but scientists believe that it may be the best candidate so far for supporting extraterrestrial life." But that's not saying much so far because none of the other planets are anywhere close.

It would be nice if this was really the new Earth, as the Mail huffs, but ... this planet orbits a very old red dwarf star (Gliese 581), which raises the serious question of how many heavy elements it has. Heavy elements are thought necessary for life as we understand it. Older stars, formed earlier, have less of them to give, and perhaps none. Wait for further info before making your travel plans.

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