Dear Earth, it’s been a great ride. We’ve had some memorable times over our 200,000 year history, but I think it’s time for us to see other species and planets. It’s nobody’s fault. Sure we’ve kind of been dicks with worldwide conflicts all the time, polluting the fuck out of you and overpopulating. But let’s be honest, you’ve had your fair share of fuck-ups. You’re to blame for earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and don’t even get me started with malaria. We’ve already started looking for a new love, and found nine potential planets that we have yet to taint. Nothing is set yet, so we’re just gonna leave our crap at your crib and crash here until we find a new place.
That’s right people we’ve discovered nine brand new possibly life-sustaining planets that we can inhabit and eventually destroy. In an announcement on Tuesday, NASA reported that their Kepler spacecraft found 1,284 planets. This is an astounding figure considering up until this week we only had confirmed 1,041 worlds. Nearly half of the new planets are rocky like Earth, nine of which are in a habitable zone or the “Goldilocks Zone,” meaning the distance from its star is just right, not too hot and not too cold to sustain life.
The most promising planet is Kepler 1638b, which is approximately 60 percent larger than Earth and slightly closer to its star with an orbit of 259 days. If it was in our Solar System it would be in between Earth and Venus.
So the big question is: “Are there aliens?” Based on the odds, the answer seems to be yes. “You’re talking about tens of billions of potentially habitable, Earth-size planets out there in the galaxy,” Batalha says. Whether they are intelligent is another question. There could very well be a planet full of dumb creatures with the body of slugs and the heads of alligator that are 6-feet long that just eat and fuck all day.
The unmanned Kepler space observatory launched in 2009 and since then has been scanning 150,000 stars for signs of orbiting planets, particularly those that might be able to support life.
Kepler works by locking in on a star and whenever a planet passed in front of it, the orbiting celestial body blocks some of its light. The dimming of the star’s light gives Kepler an idea of how big it is and how far it is to the star.
These calculations can’t give much more information than size and orbit, so we must wait for the next generation of telescopes to give more conclusive data if these planets are actually habitable or not. The Kepler mission ends next year and will be replaced with the James Webb telescope, which launches in 2018. It will be capable of studying filtered starlight to provide more information about the atmosphere of planets.
Then comes the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which has a field of view that is 100 times greater than the Hubble infrared instrument, capturing more of the sky with less observing time. This amazing space observatory will measure light from a billion galaxies and will be able to spot trace gases that could prove life exists. It is expected to launch in the mid-2020s.
“If you ask yourself the question, where is the nearest potentially habitable planet likely to be, you find that it is going to be within about 11 light-years,” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
How far could 11 light-years be? Well 11 light-years means it’s roughly 65,000,000,000,000 miles away. To give you an idea, from Earth to our moon is a mere 230,100 miles and we struggle to get there. Hey Earth, we were just joking around about seeing other planets. We love you.