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ScienceNOW: “Smallest Extrasolar Planet Portends Other Earths” The finding of the smallest known extrasolar planet yet is giving hope to those who already believe aliens are out there.
To date, most of the discovered “exoplanets”—planets not part of our own solar system—are far larger than earth, with most on the order of thousands of times as massive as earth. Furthermore, many orbit their stars far too close (or orbit far too quickly) to permit life. Even so, the search for more earth-like exoplanets continues, based on the belief that where there’s liquid water (along with a few other ingredients), life must be.
Exemplifying this attitude is Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronomer Sara Seager, who was not on the team that made the discovery. “It gives us hope of finding lots of habitable planets,” Seager commented.
It’s important to note that astronomers cannot directly observe extrasolar planets; rather, they infer their presence through indirect methods. For instance, ScienceNOW’s Richard Kerr describes “microlensing,” one technique used to determine the existence of exoplanets:
“It gives us hope of finding lots of habitable planets.”
[M]icrolensing allows continuous monitoring for subtle brightening of far-distant stars as a relatively nearby star passes in front of them. The nearer star’s gravity can slightly bend—or lens—the background star’s light toward Earth, temporarily brightening it. If a planet circling the nearer star also lines up and bends some starlight, the network picks up a secondary brightening.
The exoplanetary news this week is the discovery of an extrasolar planet with a mass just three times that of earth—which may seem large, but is actually small among discovered exoplanets. Discoverer David Bennett, an astronomer at Notre Dame, used microlensing to detect the planet, which has been cataloged as MOA-2007-BLG-192L.
The irony, of course, is that while astronomers such as Sara Seager claim such exoplanetary discoveries create hope in finding habitable planets, it seems rather that hope—or faith, really—in extraterrestrial life is fueling the search for earth-like planets. For instance, Bennett said that the microlensing technique, combined with telescopic technology of the future, could directly image exoplanets and search them for signs of life. Yet the planets we’ve discovered so far, such as MOA-2007-BLG-192L, are nowhere near habitable; Bennet’s planet, for instance, is described as “more like Neptune in composition than Earth,” and the star it orbits is less than a twelfth the size of our sun.
We will note that the Bible/creation model certainly doesn’t preclude the possibility that there are earth-like planets (in terms of size and even composition) out there, although they would be like “copies” of earth itself, which is the focus of God’s plan. Furthermore, evolutionists have the connection between habitability and life going in the wrong direction. To them, if a planet is habitable, life will eventually evolve. But the Bible explains how God created earth, then placed life on it during the Creation Week—with earth the palette for His creation.
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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.