In 500 years, we’ve gone from debating whether the Sun orbits the Earth to casting our gaze light years away in search of other habitable planets.
And the results are coming back … positive.
Astronomers have discovered a nearby planet that may represent the closest match to Earth yet. It orbits Tau Ceti and lies in the “Goldilocks zone,” like earth. That means it’s not too close or too far away from its central star. Crucial, because that allows for the presence of liquid water and therefore, life.
Tau Ceti is 12 light years away from us, which is pretty close.
There have been an increasing number of discoveries such as these. Since the 1990s, more than 800 planets have been discovered orbiting stars like the sun. However, many are of a much higher mass than earth, unlike Tau Ceti which has a mass closer to that of earth and similar physics apply.
The measurements are complex. Data on the Tau Ceti system was collected using three high-tech telescopes that, rather than look at the planets directly, examine the effect of the planets on their host star's light.
“As we stare at the night sky, it is worth contemplating that there may well be more planets out there than there are stars, some fraction of which may well be habitable,” said Professor Chris Tinney, an Australian member of the discovery team from the University of South Wales.
Maybe we can find a way out of this global warming fiasco after all.