At Least Nine Planets Are Ideally Placed To See Earth, Study Says

Posted: Sep 9 2017, 2:49pm CDT | by , Updated: Sep 9 2017, 2:51pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

At Least Nine Planets are Ideally Placed to Spy on Earth, Study Says
Image showing where transits of our Solar System planets can be observed. Credit: 2MASS / A. Mellinger / R. Wells

Scientists looks at how an alien from exoplanet might be able to watch Earth using our own technology

While most scientists are hunting for habitable planets beyond solar system, a team of researchers is looking at this challenge from a totally different perspective. They are trying to figure out places througout the universe ideal for observing Earth. Researchers believe that at least nine exoplanets are in a perfect position to spy on Earth.

Kepler space telescope has detected a thousand of exoplanets and potential candidates over the past few years. Most of them are identified by measuring dips in the brightness of stars as a planet passes in front of it. The phenomenon is called ‘transits’ and it allows Earth-based observatories millions of miles away to track fluctuations in light from the host stars at regular intervals.

Based on the idea, researchers have identified parts of the distant sky from where various planets in our solar system could be seen to pass in front of the sun. They found that rocky planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are actually much more likely to be spotted than the more distant 'Jovian' planets or gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune despite their much larger size.

"Larger planets would naturally block out more light as they pass in front of their star", said lead study author Robert Wells from Queen's University Belfast. "However the more important factor is actually how close the planet is to its parent star – since the terrestrial planets are much closer to the sun than the gas giants, they'll be more likely to be seen in transit."

Many scientists believe we are not alone in the universe. Obviously, we haven't heard from anyone beyound Earth yet, but that doesn't necessarily mean no one is out there.

Today we have powerful telescopes that can determine if the planets are in ‘habitable zone’ or the right distance away from the star to contain liquid water, which is the key ingredient to life as we know it. Though the detection of alien life may still be years away, telescopes have certainly detected several planets outside the solar system.

Of the thousands of known exoplanets, the team identified 68 worlds where alien observers would see one or more of the planets in our solar system crossing in front the sun.

"We estimate that a randomly positioned observer would have roughly a 1 in 40 chance of observing at least one planet. The probability of detecting at least two planets would be about ten times lower, and to detect three would be a further ten times smaller than this." Katja Poppenhaeger, co-author of the study said.

Kepler is still searching for potentially habitable Earth-size planets and looking at the tiny dips in the brightness of a star that can be produced by a transiting planet.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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