Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Earth-Sized Planets May Be Commonplace.

Ancient planets are almost as old as the universe - space - 27 January 2015 - New Scientist

It's been another dreadful day for creationism.

Not only have we had news of another of those 'non-existent' fossils showing intermediate characteristics not just between species but between orders, with four fossil early snakes with lizard-like features and possibly even legs in one case, but now we learn that Earth-sized planets may well be common in the Universe and at least the Milky Way galaxy in which we live has been making them for 11.2 of the 13.8 billion years that the Universe has been around.

This comes in the form of a paper in arXiv.org.

The chemical composition of stars hosting small exoplanets (with radii less than four Earth radii) appears to be more diverse than that of gas-giant hosts, which tend to be metal-rich. This implies that small, including Earth-size, planets may have readily formed at earlier epochs in the Universe's history when metals were more scarce. We report Kepler spacecraft observations of Kepler-444, a metal-poor Sun-like star from the old population of the Galactic thick disk and the host to a compact system of five transiting planets with sizes between those of Mercury and Venus. We validate this system as a true five-planet system orbiting the target star and provide a detailed characterization of its planetary and orbital parameters based on an analysis of the transit photometry. Kepler-444 is the densest star with detected solar-like oscillations. We use asteroseismology to directly measure a precise age of 11.2+/-1.0 Gyr for the host star, indicating that Kepler-444 formed when the Universe was less than 20% of its current age and making it the oldest known system of terrestrial-size planets. We thus show that Earth-size planets have formed throughout most of the Universe's 13.8-billion-year history, leaving open the possibility for the existence of ancient life in the Galaxy. The age of Kepler-444 not only suggests that thick-disk stars were among the hosts to the first Galactic planets, but may also help to pinpoint the beginning of the era of planet formation.

This increases the chances of finding a planet conducive to the evolution of some form of life - a moment any serious creationist pseudoscientists must be dreading since it would utterly destroy almost every basic assumption of the creationist industry.

It would destroy the 'Goldilocks' argument, the claim that a magic man created Earth and life on it just for humans in a Universe he created just for humans, the notion that spontaneous origins of some sort of self-replicating molecule is impossible, that 'life' needs magic to overcome some misrepresentation of the laws of thermodynamics and of course the idiotic idea that Bronze-Age goatherders wrote the best and most complete account of the creation of the Universe available.

These are all little bits of good news. There are still a lot of other hurdles life would have to overcome, but now we're seeing evidence that small planets are common, and here we have one from when the Milky Way was a kid and it was already forming probably rocky planets.

Andrew Howard, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Remember Ken Ham's infantile attempt to stop his creationist dupes from worrying about it with his claim that, since aliens couldn't know about Jesus, God wouldn't have made them? Of course, he was unable to explain why God made all the animals and plants who don't know about Jesus either, and all those animals and plants as well as humans who God made before there ever was a Jesus for them to know about.

Anyway, the significance of this discovery is that, since rocky planets can only be formed around second or third generations stars because first generation stars do not have any heavy elements, which are formed in exploding first and second generation stars, in the Milky Way galaxy small, rocky planets were being formed when the Universe was only about 2.5 billion years old and they could have been around for 80% of the life of the Universe.

So, not only are we discovering more and more suns with Earth-like planets orbiting them to the extent that there must be hundreds of millions or more orbiting the half a trillion suns in our galaxy alone - one of about a trillion galaxies, but we now know these planets could have been around for far longer than our own planet. It is almost inconceivable that amongst those there isn't a substantial number of wet, rocky planets rich in carbon, nitrogen, sulphur and oxygen and orbiting a 'Goldilocks zone' where water can exist in its three physical states, solid, liquid and gas simultaneously. If these planets are also seismically active the chances are high that a self-replicating molecule of some sort will have arisen. and that's all we need for life to take off.

The frauds at the Discovery Institute are probably working overtime to come up with a way to dismiss it, ready for the day when signs of life are discovered on another planet. Hopefully, it will be a little more creative than to simply ignore it or to lie about the science and/or the scientists. No doubt too theologians and religious apologists will be working out ways to abandon much of their theology whilst explaining that it doesn't make any difference, as it wasn't important anyway.

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