New Planets Yield Hopes of Life Beyond

Rocky, Earth-like orbs appear to be out there; might we indeed have company?
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2008 1:43 PM CDT
An artist rendition released by the European Space Agency on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007 shows the main bodies of the solar system.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The discovery, announced last week, that rocky, Earth-sized planets appear to be circling sun-sized stars in our own galaxy should thrill the closet Star Trek geek in all of us, Natalie Angier writes in the New York Times. "If planets abound, scientists suspect that life abounds, too, at least of the microbial kind," she writes—exciting stuff, given previous news of unfriendly gas giants.

True, these are all “star-huggers,” in one astronomer’s words, meaning they’re too close to their suns to support life. But their existence implies the existence of other planets nearby, many of which could be more Earth-like. Finding those planets “will be akin to the great age of exploration,” one scientist said. To boldly go, indeed.