Studying Stars

In the search for a planet similar to Earth containing life elsewhere in the universe, a good place to start is tracking down stars that burn like our Sun because they may have planets like our own. Launched at the beginning of 2009, the Kepler spacecraft uses asteroseismology, to tell us about stars by recording the variations in the light they give off. Now, an international team of researchers has a collected information on a set of stars that function like our sun with planets that are like our Earth!

Wikimedia Commons

Unprecedented Precision

The researchers have found 33 stars that are “solar-like oscillators” (meaning they have pulsations by the same mechanism that sustains the sun—powerful fluctuations of gas pockets) and planets orbiting them that are Earth-like. This study is the first to be able to measure ages, diameters, densities, masses and distances of far off (100-1600 light years from the Sun) stars with the highest level of precision achieved yet. We can now say that earth-like planets have existed in these systems long before us and will continue to form in the future.

Another Earth

The researchers consider these findings a large first step. This satellite has just revealed so much about stars and their planets in a relatively localized area around Cygnus.The Kepler will continue its mission of gathering data to find habitable, terrestrial planets and more satellites are scheduled to come. NASA will launch the TESS satellite in 2017 which will “discover new Earths and super-Earths transiting the brightest and nearest stars,” according to the agency. The European Space Agency hopes to launch their mission to find terrestrial planets, PLATO, by the mid 2020s.  With advances in technology and the invaluable reference data from this study, imagine what these coming missions will be able to find.


Sources: Aarhus University, Cornell University Library
Images: NASA, Wikimedia Commons

Share This Article