Trillions Of Planets, And Still Counting

Continuing developments in telescope technology are causing astronomers to increase their estimates of the number of Earth-like worlds in the universe.

The latest disclosure deals with the existence of “red dwarf” stars, which are dimmer and smaller than the Sun.  Until recently, telescopes have not been sufficiently powerful to detect such stars in other galaxies.  Enhancements to telescopes, however, have allowed astronomers to determine that red dwarf stars are far more common than was previously suspected.  Indeed, astronomers believe that such stars are 20 times more prevalent in older galaxies than in our galaxy.  As a result, astronomers also are concluding that there likely are many more Earth-like planets orbiting those stars — possibly trillions of Earth-like worlds.

Trillions of Earth-like planets?  The concept is provocative, because increases in the number of planets logically also increases the likelihood of life, and therefore intelligent life, on at least some of those faraway planets.  And the follow-up question is even more provocative:  would the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life be good or bad?  Would we rather be the only intelligent life forms in the universe, or would we prefer to learn that we are not alone — indeed, that intelligent life is as common as the fish in the sea?  How comfortable would humans be with the knowledge that they live in a crowded neighborhood, where neighbors might drop in for a visit at any moment?

4 thoughts on “Trillions Of Planets, And Still Counting

  1. I recall reading one of Carl Sagan’s books a few years back, in which he says there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all of the beaches on earth – a very large number that makes even the federal debt look small.

    Unrelated topic: I know you do not subscribe to the hard copy Columbus Dispatch – but there is a supplement in today’s paper containing “50 Festive Holiday Cookie Recipes.” If you can’t get your hands on a hard copy, let me know and I’ll send ours to you.

    Happy Holidays!

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  2. Hi!
    Would you please contact me immediately regarding the use of my image of Tranist HD209458 at webnerhouse.com/2010/12/02/trillions-of-planets…
    I would prefer to resolve this issue directly with you, and I find no other contact for you. This is 6-16-12.
    Thanks. Lynette Cook

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