In our solar system there is only one planet that is inhabited, and that is our own, although outside of our solar system there theoretically must be other planets which have the same conditions as Earth. The people at NASA have been investigating this for many years with the use of extremely powerful telescopes and have discovered further proof of these planets in our galaxy, as well as in others further afield.
Earth is the perfect distance from the Sun for the temperature to be ideal for plants, animals and human beings to thrive. The temperature of a planet is mainly linked to whether water can be present in the form of a liquid, which is one of the main requirements of organisms, rather than as ice or as a gaseous form. According to astronomers, Earth lies within a zone where the distance from the Sun is ideal. There are also planets that orbit around other stars with similar size and brightness to the Sun in these zones. These planets have been spotted both relatively close to our solar system and also very far away.
This zone is called the Goldilocks Zone, as the temperature is neither too hot nor cold, and so just right for life to survive. The distance from the central star also affects whether liquid is present on the surface or whether the water is in solid or gaseous form. This is one of the main requirements for the survival of organisms. It has been found that there are a number of these planets in our galaxy, as four more have just been discovered using the Kepler space telescope.
Although the planets found are within the Goldilocks Zone of a central star, this is unable to guarantee that other aspects will allow living things to grow. As well as temperature, the size of the star is also a huge factor, as it has to be just the right size to have the perfect amount of radiation for life to survive and also evolve. This means that to find out if there really is alien life then the planets will have to be investigated further.
The further examination into these planets will be a huge yet exciting undertaking. It will take more developed technology than the Kepler space telescope and more people to improve our understanding of these habitable planets. The Kepler space telescope has been used to plot these stars and planets, both those close to Earth and also light years away, however only to a limited amount of detail. New devices are being developed that will be able to see both the planets in these zones as well as their atmospheres.
With discoveries such as these, there will always be interest for both scientists and non-scientists alike. The new investigation will open up more vacancies in a very competitive career environment for graduates and scholars in fields such as physics, astronomy, engineering and cosmology, which well be more than welcome in the current environment. As well as involving people already interested and engaged in the field, the prospect of alien life within our galaxy is very intriguing and may help subjects such as sciences and maths to become more popular in schools.
As with most scientific discoveries in our rapidly developing world, they are all part of a greater puzzle. With the advanced understanding and technology we have today we can investigate further than our predecessors, however there will always remain more questions to answer.
How many of these planets are yet to be discovered in our galaxy and others further afield?