Discovery shows how unique Earth is amongst Creation
It seems there's no place like home, anywhere.
Scientists are discovering that planets appear to be a normal phenomenon around stars, however, they are also noticing that their distances are typically much closer than those in our solar system. The implication is that while planets are normal, habitable systems like ours may not be.
This graphic shows how close the planets of KOI-500 orbit their parent star.
The most recently announced discovery is of a system which has five rocky planets all larger than the Earth, orbiting their parent star so close that their orbits range from one day to 9.5 days.
The planets orbit the star KOI-500, in the constellation Lyra. These planets orbit their parent star so closely, it's difficult to imagine any hope of life.
Farther out from the star, there are 4 larger planets, probably gas giants that also orbit relatively close to KOI-500.
What intrigues scientists the most is the knowledge that the planets had to have formed farther from the star, then as a result of gravitational interactions, their orbits shrank.
In fact, astronomers are finding many systems with planets too close for liquid water to exist, which scientists consider a prerequisite for life.
So while planets may be common, habitable worlds may prove decidedly uncommon.
Once again, science demonstrates just how miraculous life on Earth happens to be.
Researchers also think our solar system's planets shifted their orbits during their formation. Evidence for this includes periods of planetary bombardment between 4.1 billion to 3.8 billion years ago.
This was before any life arose on Earth, taking place just after the Earth's surface cooled from a molten mass as a result of its formation. This bombardment is the most likely reason why Earth is covered in water - comets striking the Earth after the planet's formation remain the best scientific explanation for how water arrived on the planet.
The miraculous nature of the Solar System and the fact that despite locating thousands of other planets, yet none with likely habitable worlds, suggests that life, particularly intelligent life may be more rare in the universe than some have predicted.
There is little question that Earth, and the life upon it, remains unique amongst all Creation.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Astronomy, planets, Kepler, KOI-500
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