This is the kind of thing that drives creationists crazy, so it’s the sort of news we enjoy. In PhysOrg they have this new article that should gladden the hearts of all you science fiction fans out there: Red dwarf stars might be best places to discover alien life.
Why red dwarf stars? Wikipedia says:
Red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in the Milky Way galaxy, at least in the neighborhood of the Sun, but due to their low luminosity, individual red dwarfs cannot easily be observed. From Earth, not one is visible to the naked eye. Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, is a red dwarf (Type M5, apparent magnitude 11.05), as are twenty of the next thirty nearest. According to some estimates, red dwarfs make up three-quarters of the stars in our galaxy
Okay, there’s a lot of them. But what is that that makes them candidates for finding alien life? PhysOrg says, with bold font added by us:
[N]early every one of these [red dwarf] stars may have a planet located in its habitable zone where life has the best chance of existing, a new study concludes.
Here’s a link to the new study they’re talking about. It’s in International Journal of Astrobiology, titled In situ models for planet assembly around cool stars. All you can see without a subscription is the abstract. Let’s get back to PhysOrg:
Astronomers are discovering more and more planets around red dwarfs, and recent findings from NASA’s Kepler space observatory reveal that at least half of these stars host rocky planets that are one-half to four times the mass of Earth.
We’ve come a long way since the 1990s, when the first extra-solar planet was discovered. Until then, no one knew if any existed. Now, to the anguish of creationists, they appear to be the rule rather than the exception. You gotta have some sympathy for the creationists. Once, before the telescope, when astronomy was based on naked eye observations and no one knew anything else, they were happy thinking that Earth was the center of the universe, the specially created focus of divine attention.
Then it was discovered that were just another of the planets in the solar system, and like all the others, we orbited the Sun, not the other way around. That was a very difficult adjustment for those who imagined that their ancient texts told them all there was to know.
These days the creationists either claim that the bible somehow isn’t contradicted by the solar system, or they totally avoid the issue. But until recently they could still cling to the hope that the Sun is unique in having planets. Now, even that illusion is gone, so all they’ve got left is the hope that our world is the only one that supports life. PhysOrg continues:
Study author Brad Hansen, an astrophysicist at the University of California at Los Angeles, used computer models of in situ planetary formation to see how often red dwarfs might develop Earth-sized worlds, and where these planets might orbit around the stars.
In his computer simulations, Hansen modeled red dwarfs half the mass of the Sun, with proto-planetary disks extending from 0.05 AU to 1 AU (one astronomical unit is the average distance from the Sun to the Earth) from the stars. The disks contained an amount of gas and dust equal to six times the mass of Earth. He then looked at how many planets developed after 10 million years.
Well, if the model is good, the results should be informative. Here’s more:
Of particular interest to Hansen were the so-called habitable zones of these stars, the areas where planets are potentially warm enough to sustain liquid water — and potentially life — on their surfaces. Red dwarfs are relatively cold stars, which means their habitable zones are closer than Mercury is to the Sun — just 0.1 to 0.2 AU.
The suspense is killing us. What did he find? We’re told:
Hansen found most of the resulting planetary systems comprise between four and six surviving planets inside 0.5 AU, although the largest number went as high as 10. In addition, the red dwarfs usually possessed one or two planets within their habitable zones, which extended from 0.23 to 0.44 AU. “A high frequency of potentially habitable planets makes it more likely that we could actually find one that is habitable,” Hansen said.
The creationists must be furious about Hansen and his Satanic model. But wait — it gets even better. One last excerpt:
Moreover, Hansen also found that planets in the habitable zones of red dwarf stars could accumulate significant amounts of water. In fact, each could possess roughly 25 times more water than Earth has as a whole. All in all, he noted these results “broadly support the notion that habitable planets are plentiful around M dwarfs in the solar neighborhood.”
It’s not as if the creationists didn’t have enough to worry about. But it doesn’t matter what science discovers. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about creationists, it’s this: They’ll continue to deny reality until they can no longer make a living at it. But that day will never come. After all, we still have plenty of astrologers.
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