It’s interesting to peep the massive amount of resources and energy funneled into finding the next planet Earth given the condition of the present one struggling to sustain our existence. Editorializing aside, these recent findings remain quite remarkable. Mother Jones’ discussion with SETI Institute astronomer Dr. Franck Marchis reveals that ‘Earth 2.0’ could be discovered as early as 2024. These findings were made possible by a team of astronomers led by Bruce Macintosh of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who developed the Gemini Planet Imager. This technological leap allows scientists to explore the goings-on in the universe up to 63 light years from Earth. “When you observe a planet with [the outdated telescope] Kepler, what you’ve been doing is basically detecting the transit – the attenuation of [the star’s] light – due to the planet passing between us and the star. Now the Gemini Planet Imager [GPI], which is mounted at the eight meter class telescope in Chile we’re going to be able to see the planet itself,” Dr. Marchis explains.
Existing data provided by the Kepler suggests that one in every five sun-like stars in the Milky Way may have an Earth-sized planet circling it in the Goldilocks zone – the galactic region where liquid water could exist, the DailyMail reports. Additionally, “researchers recently suggested the figure could be even higher. Scientists in Scotland last week announced that Earth-sized planets can support life at least ten times further away from stars than previously thought.” This implies that planets previously considered uninhabitable could essentially be brimming with life. Dr. Marchis predicts the GPI will be able to pinpoint habitable planets.
The SETI Institute astronomer expounds, “so in the future we’re going to be able to tell you which star you’re observing with your naked eye will have a planet, and what type of planet. That’s the goal of GPI: to tell the public where there are planets, where there are worlds. And not only where they are, but the orbit of those bodies around the stars, the type – if they’re Jupiter, Saturn, or maybe Earth-size planets – and also the temperature and composition of their atmosphere.
Imagine one day, we’re going to be able to see seasonal effects on these planets and be able to see if there is a biosphere on these planets.”
Fascinating indeed, but to what end?