Research Paper Bobbybruce

Hidden Life: Homes we Haven't Found

When looking for the right planet to sustain life, many different factors and probabilities are thrown into the equation. For a human or any other creature to be able to function normally on a planet other than Earth, that planet has to have the right conditions. Also, there is a list of about ten different probabilities that have to match up or be relatively close to be able to sustain life (Sneath 126). If one of those factors are off the spectrum, the planet would be most likely unlivable. There are also efforts today that are being made to locate these mysterious homes (Gross). Earth's efforts applied to getting to these life vessels is almost non-existent, but that doesn't mean they cant find them. The amount of galaxies, stars, and planets is an unthinkable number (Dole 82). In the Milky Way alone, there are billions of stars (Sneath 126). Many of these stars have planets orbiting around them. When looking at the probability that there are other planets that can sustain life, there is a high chance that Earth is not the only planet holding life. This paper explains the likeliness of other habitable planets, the different factors that tie into a planet being a good candidate, and today's effort in finding these vessels.

According to the statistics, when looking at the amount of stars in the Milky Way, there are not very many planets that are actually habitable. In the Milky Way, it is estimated that there are about 4.0 x 10^-4 habitable planets per cubic parsec of space (Dole 82). That can also be written as one every 2,480 cubic parsec (Dole 82). To help visualize how much space that is, one cubic parsec of space is about thirty-one trillion kilometers or about 3.24 light years (Dictionary.com). Our galaxy has a volume of about 1.6 x 10^12, so the total number of habitable planets according to this data would be about 600 million (Dole 103). This is a rough estimation. When looking at more detailed probabilities, that number may drop significantly. To help figure out the probability for a planet that can sustain life, there is an equation to help simplify things. The equation (NL = NS x fp x ne x fb), ties in many different numbers to help (Sneath 127). NL is number of planets in our galaxy that possess life which is an estimation; NS is the number of stars in the galaxy which would be suitable suns for life bearing planets; fp is the proportion of starts which have planetary systems; ne is the average number of planets per solar system which would have a suitable environment for life; fb is the fraction of these suitable planets where life has arisen (Sneath 127 128). After the information and data is plugged into the equation, this research concludes that there are probably not less than 200,000 and not more than 800,000 million life bearing planets in our galaxy (Sneath 129).

When looking for a planet that is a good candidate to be a bearer of life, there are many different factors that tie in with the stars they orbit and with the planet itself. For starters, in our Galaxy, we contain maybe about 100,000 million stars (Sneath 127). The problem with this number, is that not every single star is suitable for life to emerge. Many of these stars may be too young, too old, too hot, too cold, or may be involved with a double or triple star system (Sneath 128). An orbit like that would then make the planets have erratic orbits, some getting too close or too distant from the sun (Sneath 128). So finding the exact number of these stars that can sustain life isn't really possible to find without more extensive research. But to find a close candidate, it makes it easier to just apply the sun's factors to other stars. Also, when looking at a planet's properties, there are many different things that need to be almost exactly like Earth to be able to sustain life. If a planet is too old or too young, it may not be able to hold any life. It takes millions of years for a planet to have life. There are other things like a planet's atmosphere, its orbit, and things like its mass (Dole 103). Earth is a perfect example for life-bearing planets. So, when we find a planet that seems as if it is a good candidate, comparing it to earth would be a good way to know if its possible to live on.

There are efforts today in searching for these planets that float around in our Milky Way. Since the breakthrough discovery in 1995, more than 760 exoplanets have been recorded (Gross). Unfortunately, these early discoveries were all of Jupiter-sized gas giants that would orbit fast and close to their star (Gross). These planets were discovered using the Doppler method, which was based on detecting the wavelength shift in the light of a star as the gravitation of a planet alternately accelerates and slows down its movement relative to our position (Gross). It was a good way to detect planets, but not a good way to detect Earth-like planets. Starting about early 2000's, new methods were used to locate the perfect Earth-like planet (Gross).

There are two different probes looking for these hidden exoplanets. The first is the French probe CoRoT. The CoRoT has confirmed 25 new exoplanets including two orbiting the same star (Gross). These planets are comparable in size to Neptune, but their orbit has a short range; going from five to twelve days (Gross). Also looking for habitable planets is the US probe Kepler which started confirming planets at the beginning of 2010 (Gross). So far, it has added 26 new planets to the list (Gross). Kepler researchers reported the first two Earth-sized planets, one just being a bit smaller than earth, which was discovered in the planetary system Kepler-20, also known to be the host to three gas giants (Gross). Searching for plausible planets with livable properties is not an easy search. The Milky Way is huge. But, the Kepler is to observe 100,000 stars for any sigh of planets in the habitable zones (Gross). Being responsible for searching for these planets is a time consuming task. So, it may be some time before more planets are located.

The Milky Way galaxy is home to hundreds of millions of stars. Many of these stars have planets orbiting around them. The sad thing is that, these planets are a significant distance away. If a planet was found that seems it can hold life, the chance that humans travel to it is slim. Our technology is not up to date like the Hollywood movies require us to be. Once humans learn to travel at a distance such as the speed of light, the search for habitable planets may actually begin. Hunting down these perfect planets is one game, while getting to them is a whole new ball park. A planet needs to have matching probabilities similar to Earth as we know, to be able to sustain life. With the shear amount of distance between different solar systems, there might actually be other life out there hiding on a floating oasis. With more time, money, effort, better technology and more extensive knowledge, someday humans may actually make it to another planet, and colonize it.

Work Cited

Dole, Stephen H. "Habitable Planets for Man". 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, N. Y. 10017: American Elsevier publishing company, Inc. 1964. Print.
Gross, Michael. "Current Biology: The search for life on Earth and other planets". Elsevier, April 10, 2012. Web.
"Parsec". Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. Web.
Sneath, P. H. A. "Planets and life". London. First American edition. Thames and Hudson international Ltd, 1970. Print.

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