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The article I chose was called, “22% of Sun-like Stars have Earth-sized Planets in the Habitable Zone,” by Nancy Atkinson, posted on universetoday.com on November 4, 2013. The article was about the number and the discovery of “habitable Earth-sized planets.” This topic has been pursued for decades, and finally we have results, thanks to the NASA Kepler spacecraft. According to Kepler’s data, an astounding one in five stars, about 22.8%, in our galaxy, similar to the Sun, have planets similar to Earth that could theoretically (hypothetically) host life. The Habitable Zone, or the “Goldilocks” Zone, is “where a planet is neither too cold nor too hot to support liquid water. Erik Petigura, University of California, Berkeley graduate, who leads the analysis (detailed examination) for the Kepler and Keck Observatory in Hawaii, comments, “The nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light years away, and can be seen with the naked eye. That is amazing.”
The Kepler’s mission was to find planets “with the potential for hosting liquid water and perhaps the ingredients needed for biology (life) to take hold.” The study was focused on G and K type stars. G and K type stars are main-sequence stars that perform nuclear fusion. K type stars are slightly smaller and cooler than G type stars. The Sun is a prime example of a G type star. So far, all of the possible planets have K type stars, but scientists are sure that there are habitable planets with G type stars. After all, we are living proof. Planet hunter Geoff Marcy says that they are “8.8 billion Earth-size planets in the Milky Way.” But he also says that not all of these planets are habitable. “Some may have thick atmospheres, making it so hot at the surface that DNA-like molecules would not survive. Others may have rocky surfaces that could harbor liquid water suitable for living organisms. We don’t know what range of planet types and their environments are suitable for life.” And the search for another place for humans to settle continues.
This article relates to what we are learning in class because we are learning about astronomy, the sun, stars, and everything around it, including Earth. Later, we will also be learning about the Kingdoms of Life and how life begins, and that directly relates to the topic of the article. Also, the Kepler spacecraft and observatory were named for the renowned astronomer Johannes Kepler, and we are learning about famous astronomers like Kepler and Ptolemy, too. Additionally, the search for another planet that humans can live on is based off on escaping any sort of disaster that could happen, like overpopulation, running out of natural resources, or the inevitable explosion of the Sun in 5 billion years. (Not that we can escape it in time.) In class, we often discuss subjects such as these.
This article is very interesting and intriguing. It informed me just enough to make me understand the topic, but not all of the information so that I would pursue the topic more. The question: is there, or could there be, other alien life, is a question people all over the world have asked, not just astronomers. In this aspect, this article is something that everyone, everywhere, can connect to. The sentences flowed extremely well together, and the opinions were backed up with concrete evidence and models. In my opinion, this article is one of the very best articles out there today.
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