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Are we alone?

Posted 25/04/2013 by sevans

The human race has been posing that question for decades, even centuries, since we first became aware that we are on a rather small planet in a rather small solar system, tucked away on one of the spiral arms of a galaxy in an expanding universe containing millions of galaxies. Are you feeling small and insignificant yet?

The general theory is that with millions of stars like our own Sun, there must be a star system very much like ours that might have a planet in the same or a similar orbit to that of Earth, on which life may have arisen. Well, just like waiting for buses, not just one such planet but two have been identified by astronomers using NASA’s Kepler telescope on a spacecraft launched in 2009 with the specific aim of finding Earth-like planets beyond our own Solar System.

The star, Kepler-62, located in the Lyra constellation, is a type K star slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun, but two so-called water-worlds, like Earth, designated Kepler-62e and -62f, orbit the star every 122 and 267 days, respectively.

The Kepler telescope detects planets that transit or cross the face of the star, and by measuring the transit, it is possible to calculate the size of the planet relative to the star. This measurement shows that Kepler-62e is 60% larger than Earth while Kepler-62f is around 40% larger, making then so-called super-Earths. Despite their sizes, they are the smallest planets to be discovered outside our Solar System but located within what has sometimes been called the Goldilocks zone around their star, making them neither too hot nor too cold for the possible development of life.

Now whether there is life on either, or indeed both, of these planets has still to be determined. But the general consensus is that with similar conditions then life may spontaneously begin as a result of very simple chemical reactions. And even if there is life on one or other of these planets, we unlikely to be in communication at any point in the future – they are after all, over 1000 light years away.

But it does make one feel that we may not be alone – and it will certainly provide another potential start point for yet another intergalactic invasion force for science fiction writers and film-makers. After all with the current batch of films being released with, for example, the North Korean as the villains, destroying the White House in Washington DC, we could all do with a slightly more unreal piece of escapism.

The even slight possibility of ‘little green men’ is a definite improvement on the current wave of insanities that humans are inflicting upon other humans.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    21/06/2013 08:28

    We will make a solar car. Now collecting intoimafron about it. We want to know that what type of electricity we can produce from solar energy: ac,dc or both? So how we can use the produced electricity for our solar car? Thanks.

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