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The numbers boggle the mind. In a period of only four months, the Kepler telescope, launched in 2009, recently identified over 1,200 potential exoplanets. To put that in perspective, the new planet candidates, if confirmed, would total more than all the exoplanets discovered previously—all the way back to 1992.
In all, the telescope spied out 19 planets larger than any in our solar system, 165 around the size of Jupiter, 662 near the size of Neptune, 288 “super-Earths” (between the size of Earth and Neptune), and 68 about the size of our home planet. This includes one extrasolar system that may contain six planets.
The more we look, the more amazing the universe becomes—something evident from this study. But the Kepler mission isn’t necessarily designed to point to God’s amazing creation. Instead, many of the scientists hope to find earthlike exoplanets that orbit within the “habitable zone,” the orbital distance where conditions are favorable for liquid water.
Five of the planet candidates, in fact, proved to be “both near Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their parent stars,” a fact trumpeted by the news release from NASA.1
Does this discovery challenge the special status of earth, which the Bible affirms in Genesis 1?
These earthlike planets in the “habitable zone” represent a small percentage of the planets (less than 1%). The chance of finding liquid water is very small because it requires a suitable atmosphere, the necessary elements, the right density, and more.
More important, the Bible affirms in Genesis 1 that earth is the special place that God chose to fill with living things. Life needs more than just water; it needs a Life-giver. Instead of “demoting” our home, the study highlights just how one-of-a-kind this blue planet really is.