Are These Rocky Worlds Where We’ll Find Alien Life?

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#Alien #PlanetsAre These Rocky Worlds Where We’ll Find Alien Life? : In recent years, thousands of planets have been discovered outside our solar system, and now scientists have pinpointed 20 of these exoplanets that they say are most like Earth – and thus most likely to have life.

The mysterious worlds, all identified originally by NASA’s exoplanet-hunting Kepler mission, are believed to be rocky planets lying within the “habitable zones” of their host stars. That means they’re likely to be just the right temperature to have liquid water, which is thought to be a key ingredient for life.

The new study doesn’t prove that life exists on any of the exoplanets. But it adds evidence that the universe is teeming with potentially habitable planets and moons. What’s more, it could help astronomers make more productive use of their limited telescope time ― and spur future research that does find evidence of extraterrestrial life.

“What we can do is focus our efforts on the planets most likely to yield evidence of extraterrestrial life, and that is what we hope our work will provide,” Dr. Stephen Kane, an astronomer at San Francisco State University and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email.

The Kepler-186 system compared with the inner planets of our own solar system. Kepler-186f, an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of its host star, is one of the 20 Earth-like exoplanets identified in the new research. (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

The Kepler-186 system compared with the inner planets of our own solar system. Kepler-186f, an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of its host star, is one of the 20 Earth-like exoplanets identified in the new research. (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

The Earth-like exoplanets vary in distance from Earth but are generally several hundred light-years away, Kane said. With interstellar travel still a dream at this point, that’s too far for us to visit. But, he said, “considering that the diameter of our galaxy is around 100,000 light-years, that’s still relatively close.”