Scientists find 'habitable' Tau Ceti planet.Of course, merely being in the 'Goldilocks zone' is a far cry from this planet actually being suitable for the evolution of living organisms but it shows that planets developing in this zone with respect to their suns is by no means unusual. This one was found, on a cosmological scale, in our back yard and orbiting a star which was thought to be an unlikely candidate for a planetary system.
Scientists have discovered a ‘habitable’ planet that orbits a sun visible to the naked eye. The world is just 12 light years away, is between two and six times bigger than the earth, and is thought to be circling Tau Ceti, a star almost identical to our sun.
The planet is one of five orbiting Tau Ceti, and lies within the star's habitable zone. It is thought to have five times the Earth's mass. Also known as the “Goldilocks zone”, the habitable zone is the orbital region that is neither too hot nor too cold to allow liquid surface water and, potentially, life.
Details of the discovery are to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Because of the difficulties involved in detecting extra-solar planets, most found so far have had high masses. The Tau Ceti planetary family is thought to be the lowest mass solar system yet detected. Read more...
But how will the world's major religions of Christianity and Islam react if we ever find evidence of life having arisen and evolved on another planet in another solar system?
For one thing it will put paid to any notion that somehow the formation of the first replicators is so unlikely as to be practically impossible, and so, even if the rest of evolution is accepted, some form of intelligence must have been involved. In fact it will show that it's not only possible but has happened at least twice, and in this small area of a vast Universe.
But of course, the entire basis of both Islam and Christianity is that a god created an entire Universe for somewhere to create this one special planet for humans so they could worship and obey him. What on earth will they make of it if they find there are other sentient beings living in a different part of the universe? Will their god have created them as something else to worship and obey him? Even if there are no sentient beings who could worship a creator, how will creationists explain them when, according to the Bible, a god created animals on earth for humans. What will it have created them on other planets for?
And how will Creationists explain away the self-evident fact that, once life gets going on another planet, it leads to diversification which will inevitably be different to the way it diversified on earth but in ways which are entirely amenable to reason given the principles of Darwinian Evolution in a different environment with a different history?
There are a couple of verses in the Bible that always embarrass Bible literalists:
And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.What's embarrassing is that somehow, in the 'Land of Nod', Cain managed to find a wife. Where did she come from? Was there another creation in a neighbouring valley; a creation which the author of Genesis forgot to record? And did these people also 'fall from grace' in another Garden of Eden and need to be saved? Did this happen a lot in those days?
With a distance of only 3.7 pc, HD 10700 [Tau Ceti] is the third closest star reported to be a host to a putative planetary system after Epsilon Eridani (Hatzes et al., 2000) with a distance of 3.2 pc and α Centauri B (Dumusque et al., 2012) with a distance of 1.3 pc, though both of these remain to be conﬁrmed and Zechmeister et al. (2005) have cast considerable doubt on the existence of a planet around Epsilon Eridani. This makes HD 10700 an ideal target for future direct-imaging missions. The signals we ﬁnd, which suggest the presence of low-mass planets, are consistent with both current theoretical models for low-mass planet formation and extant observational evidence for the presence of low-mass planets in the immediate Solar neighbourhood.How much more embarrassing is it going to be to explain yet another creation, this time not just in a nearby valley but in a different part of the galaxy? How will it affect the 'special and personal relationship' they like to imagine they have with the creator of the universe who naturally created it all for them?
Imagine having to re-write Genesis in view of the fact that this supposed creator god had created not just one planet with a dome over it from which two lamps hang, but billions of them, each with a lamp or two hanging from their own domes.
Will they each have had an Adam and Eve, talking snake, original sin and a flood, or will the creator have arranged things differently there? Will there have even been sin and a need to be 'saved' by the grotesquely barbaric act of nailing someone to a cross, or will people on other planets have eternal life and freedom from pain and misery with no need to look forward to going to Heaven?
Or will the creator have rigged things there too, so the people have to turn to a priesthood to be told how to be made safe from a bogeyman in the sky and a future of unimaginable horror for eternity?
There will be a need to re-write Genesis, though undoubtedly there will be forlorn Creationists, religious apologists and others whose livelihood depends on people believing these old Bronze Age myths, who will make increasingly desperate attempts not to have to, or to construct some laughable reinterpretation of it to make it look like multiple creations are really what it's all about after all.
But the simplest and most dignified recourse will be to bin the whole thing and consign it to the dustbin of history with other primitive myths, where it is long overdue. One wonders if they will ever find the self respect and dignity to accept reality, do the sensible thing and look for an honest way to earn a living.