Astronomer Dimitar Sasselov and his colleagues search for Earth-like planets that may, someday, help us answer centuries-old questions about the origin and existence of biological life elsewhere (and on Earth). How many such planets have they found already? Several hundreds.


Comments

  1. #1 MadScientist
    August 2, 2010

    Now we only need to identify oxygen and water vapor in their atmospheres and we’ll know it’s fairly likely that it’s a planet with life on it. There’s the humdinger.

  2. #2 Daggerstab
    August 2, 2010

    There’s a bit of a controversy about this talk on astronomy blogs & forums. An example (a bit on the extreme end) is the coverage at NASAWatch.

    The important thing to remember is that the planets found by Kepler so far are “Earth-sized”, outside the habitable zone (their transit time is too short – and that’s why Kepler found them for such a short time).

    See the follow-up on Kepler’s blog:
    http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/kepler/posts/post_1280268721769.html

  3. #3 Antoni Jaume
    August 2, 2010

    “Now we only need to identify oxygen and water vapor in their atmospheres and we’ll know it’s fairly likely that it’s a planet with life on it.”

    Water vapor is rather common even in non biotic ambients, I think that what would be telling is oxygen and methane, since they’re reactive they can be together only is there is a source for one of them, and life is a strong candidate.