To Explore Strange New Worlds

69c, 62e, 62f, and Earth. Courtesy of NASA

I believe that life exists in the cosmos. Statistically speaking, you pretty much have to. In the past six years, 656 confirmed exoplanets have been discovered, compared to 210 planets discovered in all the time before 2007. In the first 16 months of the Kepler mission, 2300 possible planetary candidates were identified. Really, considering that our own solar system has eight planets, four of whom are rocky, and three of whom are in the so-called Goldilocks zone, it shouldn't be a surprise that planets are plentiful in the universe. Its getting to the point where we can admit that planets are in fact very common, and that the majority of stars have at least one planet orbiting them. The current thinking suggests a hundred billion planets in our galaxy alone. If even a fraction of those support life of some kind, that is still potentially millions of planets.

I believe that life exists in the cosmos. Our planet is stupidly encumbered with life, so much so that it is ridiculous. Everywhere we turn, we discover a bit of life that really shouldn't be there. Creatures living the lowest, coldest, most pressurised depths of the ocean, life present in hot pressure and volcanic vents. Life in arid wastelands and in freezing conditions. Life, to quote my favourite movie, finds a way. And while to date our planet is the only one confirmed to have life on it, it is understandable considering that we haven't actually been to other planets to look for it, and the rovers that have successfully landed on Mars aren't equipped to look. That isn't their mission.

I believe that life exists in the cosmos. I just believe that we get hung up sometimes on our own special Arrogant Presumption. The Goldilocks zone is the area around a star where liquid water can exist, and therefore, according to everything we known about Earth, the ideal place for life to emerge. Life, as it exists on Earth. Which, as a man of science, I must admit is the only definition we have for life, and therefore must be the benchmark for it. However, I am not a scientist, I am a professional speculator, and can therefore say that this definition is constrictive. We cannot dismiss the potential that life is capable of arising in native environments and adapting to those environments, and might do so in environments so harsh, so different, so alien to us that Earth-like life would never survive. But we have to start somewhere, and the Goldilocks zones are as good a place as any.

NASA reports that two solar systems, Kepler-62 and 69, have had positive identifications of planets orbiting them. More then that, several of the planets are Earth sized and assumed to be rocky. And a handful, including multiple planets in the same solar system, are within the Goldilocks zone. Kepler-69 is roughly the same age, size and luminosity of our own star, 2700 light years away in the constellation Cygnus. Two planets orbit 69, b and c: 69c (70% larger then Earth) falls into the Goldilocks zone in a way similar to Venus, orbiting in 242 days. 69b transits the star in only 13 days.

Kepler-62 is a 7 billion year old star 1200 light years away, in the constellation of Lyra. Smaller and dimmer then our star, it has been confirmed to have 5 planets (62b-f) orbiting. The three inner planets are inhospitable, orbiting very close to the star, and in 5, 12, and 18 days respectively. There are two planets within the Goldilocks zone: 62 e orbits at the inner edge in 122 days, and is 60% larger then Earth. 62f orbits further out, in 267 days and is only 40% larger then Earth. While neither have had their compositions confirmed, they are expected (considering their size) to be rocky worlds, and could potentially have liquid water.
I believe that life exists in the cosmos. I don't believe that aliens have visited Earth and experimented on us (though, if you think about it, alien abductions are essentially what we do when we put dolphins in aquariums). I do believe that missions like Kepler are helping to identify the places in the galaxy where there is the greatest possibly for life to have evolved. And that where life exists, there is the potential for complex life. And where there is complex life, there is the potential for intelligent life (something that we are more and more coming to realise isn't a rarity on this planet). I believe that life exists in the cosmos, and that somewhere in the cosmos someone is looking for us as much as we are looking for them.

And I believe that we won't necessarily recognise each other then we find each other.

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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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