A couple of things happened this month that may make it easier to find other Earth-like planets.
Probably the more important of the two was that for the first time, a ground based telescope has found a super Earth orbiting around 55 Cancri.
The Nordic Optical Telescope on the island of La Palma, Spain was used to find the planet. The telescope is only 2.5-meters, not large compared to a great many other telescopes, but it does have all the equipment necessary for the task. Prior to this success, scientists had to wait for time or data from one of the space based telescopes to get data. You can imagine the waiting line for that to happen.
55 Cancri is located 40 light-years away and is visible to the naked eye. During its transit, the planet crosses 55 Cancri and blocks 1/2000th (about 0.05%) of the stars light for almost two hours. Given what we know about the star, it means that the planet is about twice the size of Earth.
The other innovation that happened is that Cornell University’s Institute for Pale Blue Dots has shown where ( and when) other Earths are most likely to be found. BTW, that tiny, tiny spot is the Earth as seen from Saturn, not even half way out of the solar system. Now don’t your problems seem a little smaller?
What makes this research so important is that young Earth like planets will be forming farther out away from their stars. That gives another location to look in developing systems, like the Pleiadies. A big as space is, knowing where to look is half the battle (just ask the Dark Matter/Energy people…they are still in the dark!!! Get it!! Oh, I slay me sometimes….and I digress easily).
So now it is possible for ground based telescopes to find exoplanets, and research know where to look. Kepler may have started the avalanche of new planet discoveries, but there are a lot more to find.
– Ex astris, scientia –
I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.