Astronomers find more Earth neartwins

first_imgWASHINGTON — Earth has a few more near-twin planets outside our solar system, tantalizing possibilities in the search for extraterrestrial life.Astronomers announced Tuesday that depending on definitions, they have confirmed three or four more planets that are about the same size as Earth and are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold “Goldilocks Zone” for liquid water to form.These planets are likely to be rocky like Earth, and not gas giants or ice worlds. They get about the same heat from their stars as we get from the sun, according to the latest results from NASA’s planet hunting Kepler telescope.But don’t book your flights yet.They may be close to Earth in size and likely temperature in the gargantuan scale of the universe, but not close enough for comfort.Consider two of them, the nearest to Earth discovered to date. If they have atmospheres like Earth’s — a big if — one would be a toasty 140-some degrees and the other around zero, said study lead author Guillermo Torres, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Life conceivably could evolve and adapt to those temperatures, he said.Oh, and those two are 500 and 1,100 light-years away; a light-year is 5.9 trillion miles.What’s important, said SETI Institute astronomer Douglas Caldwell, a study co-author who presented the findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, is that astronomers are a bit closer to answering the age-old question: Are we alone?last_img read more