Nearly four hundred years ago one brave scientist dared to make his paradigm-shattering discovery known to the world, that it is not the sun which travels around the Earth, but the Earth which orbits the sun.Stupidly obvious now, his realization was the first great discovery in astronomy, and for his intellectual bravery, he was deemed a heretic and locked in a room.Just imagine what devious punishments the Inquisition would have thought up for Galileo if he had been stupid enough to estimate the number of planets in our little galaxy at 160 Billion!
This has been a fantastic week for those of us who to dare to look up at the sky and wonder just how common worlds are amongst the trillions upon trillions of stars gracefully floating throughout the universe.With images such as the Hubble Deep Field
it is utterly humbling to realize that there could be even more planets in the universe than stars!Not only have astronomers been discovering planets outside our solar system at an astounding rate—approximately 700 confirmed with over 2,000 candidates to be reviewed, in just under twenty years of searching—but we are beginning to form a picture which shows us that worlds like ours
, or at least similar worlds, are more like the rule than the exception. They’ve even discovered three planets that orbit binary star systems
With recent discoveries of frozen water
on Mars, as well as rocks
that could only have formed if water once flowed over the surface of the red planet, the next logical thing to imagine is that on at least a few of these billions of planets in the Milky Way at least a few must harbor life, if not evidence of past life.
It seems like every day our eyes-in-the-sky show us that ours is not a lonely world, but in fact just one amongst billions.
Now, if we can just find at least one planet with intelligent life on it…
Boy do I miss Carl Sagan!
Image Source: [AstronomyNow.com]