Oh No! Still More Planets Found

Things used to be much easier for creationists. As we mentioned a few months ago in More Earth-Like Planets Found:

It wasn’t long ago that creationists were certain that our solar system was the only one in existence, and the Earth, having been uniquely created for us, was all alone in the universe. For example, look at this oldie-goldie from the 1970s from the Institute for Creation Research: The Stars of Heaven. It was written by Henry Morris himself, who said:

[T]he earth is unique in the solar system and, for all we know, the solar system is unique in the universe. So far as we can observe, there are not even any planets anywhere else, let alone a planet equipped to sustain biological life.

Those days are gone, but creationists still insist that Earth is a uniquely Privileged Planet. Now, even that forlorn hope is fading fast. NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) reports: NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces Largest Collection of Planets Ever Discovered.

According to Wikipedia, “Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The spacecraft, named after the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, was launched on March 7, 2009.” This is what NASA says, with some bold font added by us for emphasis:

NASA’s Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets – the single largest finding of planets to date. “This announcement more than doubles the number of confirmed planets from Kepler,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.”

To depress the creationists even more, we’re told:

An additional 1,327 candidates are more likely than not to be actual planets, but they do not meet the 99 percent threshold and will require additional study.

Then a NASA official is quoted:

“Before the Kepler space telescope launched, we did not know whether exoplanets were rare or common in the galaxy. Thanks to Kepler and the research community, we now know there could be more planets than stars,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters. “This knowledge informs the future missions that are needed to take us ever-closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe.”

It’s even worse than the creationists could imagine. Let’s read on:

In the newly-validated batch of planets, nearly 550 could be rocky planets like Earth, based on their size. Nine of these orbit in their sun’s habitable zone, which is the distance from a star where orbiting planets can have surface temperatures that allow liquid water to pool. With the addition of these nine, 21 exoplanets now are known to be members of this exclusive group.

One more excerpt, guaranteed to drive the creationists crazy:

Of the nearly 5,000 total planet candidates found to date, more than 3,200 now have been verified, and 2,325 of these were discovered by Kepler.

Okay, so we’ve gone from being the only planetary system in the universe to being in a galaxy where — after just a few years of searching with what will soon be regarded as primitive equipment — we’ve found more than 3,200 planets, almost 550 of which are rocky planets like Earth, and 21 of those are in their star’s so-called Goldilocks zone, or rather, the Circumstellar habitable zone.

It’s not a good time to be a creationist. But then, it never was.

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12 responses to “Oh No! Still More Planets Found

  1. I remember actually being terrified that aliens were real, believing that if there was life on other planets, then all faith was just utter foolishness. Man, it’s so good to shake free from that.

  2. It’s not a good time [for there] to be a creationist[s].

    FIFY

  3. These are just the larger planets close to their parent stars. Kepler can, barely, detect an earth-sized planet approximately as far from it’s sun as we are – that’s really the edge of it’s ability, and many of these might have been missed. The mission did not run long enough to pick up planets with longer orbital periods, which in our system would mean most planets. In other words, it is very probable that all of the confirmed planets are in systems with smaller or more distant planets that were beyond Kepler’s ability to detect. We have just scratched the surface.

    Various analysis of the data conclude that between 17% and 25% of sun-like stars have planets in their habitable zones. The number of sun-like stars in our galaxy is uncertain, however it is likely to be more than a billion, given that most estimates (based on the mass of the galaxy) yield between 200 and 400 billion stars for the galaxy as a whole. If so, the number of planets orbiting stars like the sun in their habitable zones is more than 170 million, and possibly much more.

    Assuming most are too big or too small, or orbit low metal stars, or orbit stars in inhospitable regions near the center of the galaxy, there is likely only a fraction that are truly earth-like, say 1 million.

    A million earths. (my wild but conservative guess) Creationists’ heads must be spinning.

  4. Ed says: “Kepler can, barely, detect an earth-sized planet approximately as far from it’s sun as we are – that’s really the edge of it’s ability, and many of these might have been missed.”

    I’m fairly sure that we can only detect planets that transit their stars from our point of view. If that’s true, then it’s likely that most of the planetary systems out there can’t yet be detected, because we’re not lined up with the plane of their orbits.

  5. @SC
    Absolutely true – however, astronomers calculate what percentage of stars are expected to be lined up such that we can detect a transit. We can detect close transits at greater angles than distant transits, which can only be detected if the plane of their orbits is very closely to our line of sight. This also reduces the number of eligible stars in the sample for which we can detect planets in habitable zones.

    Kepler was able to compensate for these problems by observing a very large sample of stars – about 150,000 initially.

  6. Ed notes: The number of sun-like stars in our galaxy is uncertain, however it is likely to be more than a billion, given that most estimates (based on the mass of the galaxy) yield between 200 and 400 billion stars for the galaxy as a whole. If so, the number of planets orbiting stars like the sun in their habitable zones is more than 170 million, and possibly much more.

    And according to google there are perhaps 200 billion galaxies out there?

    That gives a considerably larger number of planets in the habitable zones.

  7. Wikipedia “Exoplanet” says “11 billion potentially habitable Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way”.

  8. How many potentially habitable Earth-sized moons, I wonder.

  9. docbill1351

    Well, the deal is “habitable.” If you’re looking for a calm planet with 20% Oxygen and 80% Nitrogen then you’re looking for the wrong planet!

    That was not the methane, CO2 planet we started with.

    Massively bombarded planet, covered in ice, volcanoes, tectonics – none of the IDiots propose those.

  10. Eric Lipps

    Creationists aren’t bothered by the discovery of new planets as long as none of them are proven to have living creatures on them. And even if one is found which actually has not just life but intelligent life, they’ll insist that these aliens must look just like us because, after all, they too were created in the Image of God© 6,000 years ago.

    You can’t win a logical argument with people for whom logic only counts when it supports them.

  11. Anyone whose actually read The Privileged Planet instead of the anemic treatment it gets from Wikipedia, will not be the least bit “worried” about the discovery of ~1,300 new planets. The revised Drake Equation offered by Brownlee and Ward in their book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe is enough to let all creationist sleep soundly tonight.