Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Saturday Stub: Earth to Kepler 22b

Posted by Ethan Clow on December 10, 2011

This is a late Saturday Stub so forgive me, but I’ve been thinking about this all week. By now most of you have heard of the extraordinary news of Kepler-22b. A planet orbiting a star called Kepler-22.

Although not the first planet to be discovered in the “Goldilocks” orbit, this exciting new planet may be the most likely place to see life in our galaxy. The space-based Kepler observatory has confirmed the existence of a planet called Kepler-22b which orbits a star called Kepler-22, about 600 light years away. The planet takes about 290 days to circle the star once, which means that this planet is about the same distance the Earth is from our sun, give or take a bit.

This puts the planet inside of that star’s habitable zone, the distance where, given certain planetary conditions, liquid water can exist.  As I mentioned the planet is closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun — that’s why its year is shorter — but the star is cooler, compensating for that closeness. That makes this the best candidate yet for Earth-like conditions.

If Kepler-22b has a greenhouse effect, and if that green house effect is similar to the Earths, and if a whole bunch of conditions are perfect, we could be looking at a planet that’s about 22 degrees Celsius.

Ever since I learned of this planet I’ve been wondering if life is present there. Maybe animals. That would be so cool. Would they be like Earth-animals? Impossible to say for sure.

What about intelligent life? I know that the universe is big. Really big. Really really big. So I’ve always thought that the odds of intelligent life out there somewhere was high. In fact many a times I’ve looked up at the stars and thought with a lot of certainty that somewhere, out there, something was looking up at different stars and wondering about the universe just like I was.

Now that I know Kepler-22b is out there, and yes I know it’s still not a slam dunk that life exist there, but it’s just so hard to not speculate!

To me, just knowing that this planet exists really changes my thinking from hopeful wondering to well… really hopeful wondering. But that’s such a big step! Six hundred light years away. This planet that has the potential to be so much like our own world.

Maybe there’s a pre-industrial civilization on that planet. Perhaps, at this moment they are undergoing a major philosophical awakening and debate is raging all over the planet on the existence or non-existence of gods.

Maybe they’re an advanced civilization, more so than us. Perhaps they’ve already begun to explore the galaxy.

Or maybe not, maybe they’re like us, industrialized and early space explorers. They might have visited another world in their solar system and put dozens if not hundreds of probes into the cosmos. Perhaps right now, as we speak, they are pointing their version of the Kepler observatory at our corner of the galaxy and are about to see that our planet orbits our star in the habitable region. What will they think?

Food for thought.

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