Exoplanet's Are Common
The recent discovery of planets around red dwarf stars is an exciting prospect. Red dwarf stars represent nearly sixty percent of all stars in our galaxy and likewise in other galaxies too.
What does this mean for us on lonely planet Earth. Well for the man or woman on the street, it probably doesn't mean much. But for the scientific community and those working in the field of space exploration or discovery this is monumental.
But it also means satellite's like Kepler are in part redundant. Why? Kepler is designed to observe one hundred and fifty thousand stars. It watches and records any dip in light output. If the star flickers the chance of a planet in orbit is likely. The problem is, that with the discovery of planets around red dwarfs, the new statistics estimate that most stars now have planets, an average of 1.6 planets per star. So for Kepler its primary mission should surely change if it has the capability to do so. All efforts now need to be directed at the Goldilocks Zone around stars. This zone is considered the area of orbit for an exoplanet that would allow liquid water to exist on the surface. Too close and the water is vaporised or blown away by the solar wind from the host star. You will find an example of that with our very own Venus. Too far away and water freezes. Examples of which are Mars, Saturn's Moon Enceladus and the Jupiter Moon of Europa.
Of course the Goldilocks Zone is not the be all and end all of habital places. As mentioned Europa and Enceladus are believed to contain huge warm global oceans. A primordial soup perhaps that will contain life. The Goldilocks Zone is a primary search criteria for searching for planets like Earth, (water on surface in liquid form).
So we come back to the question 'What does this mean to us'. Well I think we can safely assume that we are not unique and we are not alone. The more important questions is, will we be able to contact other life forms in other systems. Yes, but only in systems within fifty light years. And even that will take either generational star ships or incredibly powerful transmitters and a very patient person.
So tonight when you look at the night sky, and a small star catches your eye, you may well be looking at a planet that has someone looking right back at you wondering the same thing.
We just have to hope that science will find a method of star travel that does not take decades or more.