Aug 1, 2015
Recently NASA announced the discovery, for the first time, of an Earth-like planet orbiting a star like our own Sun 1,400 light years distant. The planet is a bit larger and older than earth, and it occupies the “habitable zone”, where conditions are optimal to make life a possibility.
Right now I’m sure that spectral analysis is being conducted to see if this planet has an oxygen-rich atmosphere, a strong indicator of life. Moreover, I’d bet good money that radio telescopes are being pointed toward Kepler 452b in hopes that maybe, just maybe there’s an intelligent species there who are using radio signals for communication.
Perhaps these creatures are like us in many ways...just a little more than a century from the discovery of broadcast radio and now maybe they’re enjoying technologies similar to our satellites, Internet, and smartphones. Perhaps they’ve sent astronauts to their moon or nearby planets, and have a space probe that has recently made a flyby to their outermost planet, even arguing about whether it’s a real planet or not. And perhaps, just perhaps, they’re analyzing data from one of their space telescopes and have just announced the discovery of planet similar to their own, only smaller, a bit younger, and 1,400 light years distant.
In other words, they’re looking right back at us.
Right now their scientists are pointing radio telescopes to listen for radio signals to determine if a civilization exists on Earth. What’ll they hear? Crickets. And what will we hear when we listen to them? Space crickets.
Those radio signals, even if we both have the technology to hear them, won’t reach our respective planets for almost 1,300 years. We could be staring right at each other and never know it.
Greg Laden was born in Albany, New York and subsequently lived in the Boston area and Milwaukee and spent a total of several years in Zaire (now Congo) and South Africa. He now lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.
Greg is trained as an archaeologist and biological anthropologist, has taught at Harvard University, Boston University, the University of Minnesota and elsewhere. He writes about climate science, human evolution, science education, and politics at Greg Laden's Blog on National Geographic's Science Blog network and elsewhere, and maintains a website at www.gregladen.com
Last week the discussion paper by James Hansen, "Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms..." was published to the Internet. Greg shares his expertise to help us interpret this complex and critically important paper.
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This episode of Blue Streak Science Podcast comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia; and Sonoma County, California!
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