I still find it difficult to get my head around the fact that we have landed a man on the moon and now we are being told that NASA has discovered thousands of new planets – nine of which are potentially habitable.
The 1,284 new planets have been found by NASA’s Kepler mission, with nine being detected within their sun’s habitable zone – this is the distance from a star that allows orbiting planets to have surface temperatures ideal for liquid water.
Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, explains: “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.”
Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters, adds: “This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe.”
My head is already filled with Dr Who-style images of what species may have developed on other habitable planets out there – could there be humans just like us living on their own similar worlds? Would they have made similar inventions to our human race or made the same mistakes?
Some of these planets are only 11 light years away – it may sound a lot but apparently that’s relatively close in terms of the universe – so maybe we’ll find out one day.
The Kepler mission was set up to study our section of the Milky Way using an ultrasensitive light sensor – that’s about as much of the science as I understand but Nasa has some great website material to give you more of an idea.