Scientists have a theory how they might find Earth-like planets in our galaxy with “habitable” atmospheres and thus possible life. By searching for planets that meet certain criteria--such as the distance from their sun, estimated amount of time they’ve existed with “habitable” environments to allow life to evolve, and if they have water-—the odds are increased of finding life on other worlds. But how is this information gathered from a tiny speck of light that is light years away?
By, quite literally, staring into space. A planet reflects somewhere in the range of one billionth to one ten billionth of the light of their respective sun. Scientist believe that by focusing high powered telescopes on an object for weeks at a time, enough data can be collected from monitoring the source to determine if the planet has water. Because water and soil reflect light differently, as the planet spins on its axis and travels around its sun, changes in the light may become evident over a span of time that will give clues if it has liquid oceans.
The problem is that it will be another ten to twenty years before these planet-seeking telescopes are developed. Meanwhile, some scientists hope to take advantage of some of our space exploration projects to study Earth from great distances to get a better idea what an Earth-like planet should look like from space.
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