Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Quest for extraterrestrial life not over: experts
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) April 18, 2014

The discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the "habitable" zone of a distant star, though exciting, is still a long way from pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life, experts said Friday.

The planet, dubbed Kepler-186f, is the first of this size found orbiting its star at a distance that would allow it to have liquid water -- a prerequisite for the development of life, whether primitive or complex.

But whether it has any, we may never know.

"Unfortunately, the system is too far away and too faint to know more," Heike Rauer of the German Aerospace Centre's Institute for Planetary Research told AFP.

"We don't know for sure whether it is rocky, we don't know for sure that it has an atmosphere, what this atmosphere is made of, or that it has water," she said.

"We know how we want to measure it: by taking a spectrum of the atmosphere, but with current and next foreseen technology, we cannot take this spectrum."

Sean Raymond, an astrophysicist at France's CNRS national research centre who was a member of the team that discovered the planet, agreed we won't know how hospitable Kepler-186f is for quite some time. If ever.

"We are not even close to having the means with which to take these measurements," he said. "We will have to wait for the next generation of space telescopes, in 10 or 20 years."

- Are we alone? -

The exoplanet, some 500 lightyears from Earth, shows that potentially habitable worlds can exist.

Other exoplanets found within their stars' habitable zones have been gas giants -- this one's size may mean it is a rocky planet, another condition for life to take root.

Science has invested much time and resources into finding so-called exoplanets, which revolve around stars other than our Sun.

The quest is targeted mainly at answering the question: "Are we alone?", but also to find clues as to how and why life on Earth began.

Rauer, who will head the European Space Agency's (ESA) PLATO planet-hunting mission, due for launch in 2024, said the first dedicated searches started in the mid-1990's, with telescopes on the ground measuring the mass of distance planets.

This was followed in the next decade by satellites determining their radius.

NASA's Kepler space observatory, which spotted the new planet, was dedicated exclusively to the task of finding exoplanets -- it has found 3,600 planet candidates of which 961 have been confirmed so far.

Future missions like PLATO will seek to detect Earth-like planets orbiting stars that are brighter than Kepler-186f and closer to our own planet -- which should make it easier to detect life, if there is any.

"In the next decades, we will be able to get answers, but in other systems" than Kepler-186f, said Rauer.

Fabio Favata, coordinator of ESA's science and robotics exploration programme, said that while Kepler-186f is the only planet of its size found in a habitable zone to date, that may soon change.

"We are in a golden era of exoplanet discoveries. So far it is unique, but will it stay so? I am ready to bet you money that it won't."

The search for a planet capable of hosting life remains an academic pursuit -- there is no solar system close enough for mankind to ever reach it, unless we develop time travel.

Kepler-186f is so far from Earth that "if you could build a perfect spaceship that can travel close to the speed of light, to go there and back would still take more than 1,000 years," said Favata.


Related Links
Life Beyond Earth
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life
Seattle WA (SPX) Apr 17, 2014
A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps. That's because such "tilt-a-worlds," as astronomers sometimes call them - turned from their orbital plane by the influence of companion planets - are less likely than ... read more

Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon

Russian Federal Space Agency is elaborating Moon exploration program

Science, Discovery Channels to broadcast private race to the moon

Take the Plunge: LADEE Impact Challenge

The Path to Mars

Meteorite studies suggest hidden water on Mars

Getting in Place for a Better View of Endeavour Crater

Mars' halcyon times may have been fleeting

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Powers through First Integrated System Testing

Astronauts to grow lettuce on International Space Station

NASA Astronauts Will Breathe Easier With New Oxygen Recovery Systems

Minorities on display in Chinese tourist boom

China launches experimental satellite

Tiangong's New Mission

"Space Odyssey": China's aspiration in future space exploration

China to launch first "space shuttle bus" this year

Dragon Cargo Craft Launch Scrubbed; Station Crew Preps for Spacewalk

Backup ISS computer breaks down, requiring possible spacewalk

No politics in space: ISS example of what Russia, US can achieve working together

Sakura tree grown in space blooms in Japan

Russian Rockets used by the US

SpaceX Launch of NASA Cargo to Space Station Set for Friday

Russia will continue rocket engines supplies to US

MEASAT-3b shipped to launch base

Chance meeting creates celestial diamond ring

Faraway Moon or Faint Star? Possible Exomoon Found

The Importance of Planetary Plumes

Orbital physics is child's play with 'Super Planet Crash'

Refreshingly cool, potentially toxic

Amazonas 4A satellite anomaly being investigated following launch

New Self-healing Plastics Developed

New technique takes cues from astronomy and ophthalmology to sharpen microscope images

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.