Scientists Predict That One in Every Five Stars Has a "Habitable" Planet

Scientists Predict That One in Every Five Stars Has a "Habitable" Planet

Out of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy, 20 billion have planets that could potentially sustain life.

Aliens. They may be more likely than you think. We all sort of hoped that they might be "out there" somewhere in the galaxy, and now NASA astronomers have estimated that as many as 20 billion of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy have planets that could potentially sustain life.

Using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope they argue that one in five stars like the Sun hosts an Earth-sized world located in the "habitable zone". The "habitable zone" describes the region around a star where temperatures allow for water to stay liquid at the surface, and we all know that water is the key building block of life.

"What this means is, when you look up at the thousands of stars in the night sky, the nearest Sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye," said the co-author of the study, Erik Petigura, from the University of California, Berkeley.

While this is some pretty amazing news, other team members cautioned that just because planets exist in the habitable zone, does not mean that they are automatically hospitable to life. "Some may have thick atmospheres, making it so hot at the surface that DNA-like molecules would not survive," said another author, Geoff Marcy.

Researchers came to this conclusion by first gathering data by combing through some 42,000 stars to find habitable planets, and then extrapolating the data to apply to the entire Milky Way galaxy.

Source: BBC

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Meh. You need more for a planet to be habitable than just being in the Goldilocks zone. Furthermore: we're not even sure that it needs to be in there. There are plenty of non-water liquids which could be used by alien species.

Alleged_Alec:
Meh. You need more for a planet to be habitable than just being in the Goldilocks zone. Furthermore: we're not even sure that it needs to be in there. There are plenty of non-water liquids which could be used by alien species.

seriously? this is amazing news. it wasnt that long ago that they didnt even know if extrasolar planets even existed and its suddenly become meh

wombat_of_war:

Alleged_Alec:
Meh. You need more for a planet to be habitable than just being in the Goldilocks zone. Furthermore: we're not even sure that it needs to be in there. There are plenty of non-water liquids which could be used by alien species.

seriously? this is amazing news. it wasnt that long ago that they didnt even know if extrasolar planets even existed and its suddenly become meh

As far as I know, this is pretty old news. I remember having discussions about this 6 years ago during physics classes.

Um... I think that title should be "NASA predicts that..." - the BBC are just doing the reporting on it.

Anyway, I'm not that surprised, but I am aware that everything that makes alien life more likely also makes the Fermi Paradox more of a problem...

Alleged_Alec:
Meh. You need more for a planet to be habitable than just being in the Goldilocks zone. Furthermore: we're not even sure that it needs to be in there. There are plenty of non-water liquids which could be used by alien species.

One thing you have to consider is the reason that carbon based molecules are considered the premiere building block of life is because of of its ability to form complex organic bonds that can break just a easily without being fragile. These bonds however are particularly finicky as to what environment they can function in and thus that is why we search for planets in the Goldilocks zone as carbon based life (by far and large the most likely to exist) can only exist in this region. Alternatively there is Silicon. However silicon produces fewer complex bonds as carbon required for anything resembling metabolic life. On the other hand, life produced from it could form in much more extreme environments, possibly even devoid of any liquid sustenance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_biochemistry#Silicon_biochemistry

However said bonds are incredibly powerful, not all that complex, and do not break easily or all that fast. Life formed from silicon would likely be incredibly slow (unless existing at far greater temperatures and pressure), or limited to some sort of crystalline plant-life. Most of my information came from narrations from Stephen Hawking and Dr. Michio Kaku on various films that I cannot find online unfortunately. I would love to link you to them but alas, I cannot.

P.S. I noticed you mentioned physics class. What do you know that I do not or can correct?

The_Darkness:
Um... I think that title should be "NASA predicts that..." - the BBC are just doing the reporting on it.

Anyway, I'm not that surprised, but I am aware that everything that makes alien life more likely also makes the Fermi Paradox more of a problem...

Not really NASA either, the data was collected by NASAs teliscope, but it looks like it was then some univeristy academics that wrote this paper.

NASA of course deserves some credit, without their kit it wouldnt be possible, but the prediction as such looks to come from outside people. Not uncommon when expensive kit is needed this, allowing others to book time with it or to use data from it.

Well people should understand that this is a very wide estimate, yes many solar systems have a Goldilocks zone but that doesn't mean there is a planet in it, or that the planet is stable, or that it has the right elements in it's composition, or that the sun is stable and limited in it's deadly radiation,... and many more factors that you can only observe from up close, which we aren't so at best you can call this eyeballing it.

But it does offer great prospects in expansion proceedings for the Imperium of Man.

This information would certainly narrow down the search for habitable planets, but how about we actually work on being able to GET to one first, hm?

Alleged_Alec:
There are plenty of non-water liquids which could be used by alien species.

Those planets are only useful as bombing practice anyway.

Without getting too hippy, man. Why does life need water to survive? Is it totally beyond the realm of possibility that life could be totally different somewhere else? When I'm watching star trek (or other similar shows) it always strikes me as odd that 90% of aliens are identical to humans... They all are bipedal, legs, arms, head, shoulders etc they just have other stuff, like ridges and big ears. (I know it was probably down to budget or time or something)

Taking that same idea, why do aliens need to follow our predefined rules for life?

I'm probably speaking from a very ignorant point of view but I like to keep a very open mind about other forms of life. I mean there are teeny tiny hippo looking creatures on this planet that have been subjected to all kinds of tests and lived, they just hibernate till the abuse stops.

I think it would be kind of cool if there was another... Dimension (for lack of a better word) to this planet and there was another species/form of life living on the same planet as us but neither species/form of life knew about the other. Like I said, I like to keep an open mind, science is cool and all (my favourite subject in school) but it doesn't have every answer yet.

The number of habitable planets might actually be quite a bit higher than the 20 billion that were predicted, because this research does not include red dwarf stars than can very easily host habitable planets as well. Previous estimates say that even 15-50% of these red dwarfs may have such planets (even higher than the 14-30% of Sun-like stars).

Only one problem: they haven't yet found definitive evidence of a single one, what with that damn Kepler breaking down. :S

And naturally, some assumptions were made here. There is no proof that these planets would even be terrestrial rocky planets but maybe balls of gas. And as said, a planet being rocky and in the right place doesn't automatically make it suitable for life. Plus, these calculations were based on a finite set of samples and some rough extrapolation.

But still, great news!

In other words "Scientists more than happy to make earthshaking predictions they know they'll never have to back up with actual proof."

The_Darkness:
Um... I think that title should be "NASA predicts that..." - the BBC are just doing the reporting on it.

Anyway, I'm not that surprised, but I am aware that everything that makes alien life more likely also makes the Fermi Paradox more of a problem...

My problem with the fermi paradox is that it does not take into account the possibility of things like civil wars occurring between residence of the new planet and the old (like there was between america and england) or stuff such as maybe advance civilisations don't want to contact new civilisations until they are ready. Heck maybe humans are muscle bound toxic beasts compared to other alien species and they haven't contact us as they are scared of us and their laws prohibit them from wiping us out. Also the aliens cultures could be incredibly different and something about it means they avoid us. In short I don't agree with the fermi paradox.

OT: so 1 in 5 could have a plant that has 1 condition to be inhabitable by carbon based lifeforms.

omega 616:
Without getting too hippy, man. Why does life need water to survive? Is it totally beyond the realm of possibility that life could be totally different somewhere else? When I'm watching star trek (or other similar shows) it always strikes me as odd that 90% of aliens are identical to humans... They all are bipedal, legs, arms, head, shoulders etc they just have other stuff, like ridges and big ears. (I know it was probably down to budget or time or something)

Taking that same idea, why do aliens need to follow our predefined rules for life?

I'm probably speaking from a very ignorant point of view but I like to keep a very open mind about other forms of life. I mean there are teeny tiny hippo looking creatures on this planet that have been subjected to all kinds of tests and lived, they just hibernate till the abuse stops.

I think it would be kind of cool if there was another... Dimension (for lack of a better word) to this planet and there was another species/form of life living on the same planet as us but neither species/form of life knew about the other. Like I said, I like to keep an open mind, science is cool and all (my favourite subject in school) but it doesn't have every answer yet.

Without getting too nerdy, it's basically because water is one of the best solvents and it consists of the most common elements in the universe (Hydrogen and Oxygen, molecular water and water-ice aren't that uncommon in the universe).

If you brake up the human body into it's constituent elements it basically has the same spectral profile as the universe. The most common element in your body is hydrogen (63%), followed by Oxygen (24%), and then Carbon (12%).

Turns out the biblical "dust-to-dust" concept needs to be "universe-to-universe", since we've more in common with the universe at large than our own little Earth.

omega 616:
Without getting too hippy, man. Why does life need water to survive? Is it totally beyond the realm of possibility that life could be totally different somewhere else? When I'm watching star trek (or other similar shows) it always strikes me as odd that 90% of aliens are identical to humans... They all are bipedal, legs, arms, head, shoulders etc they just have other stuff, like ridges and big ears. (I know it was probably down to budget or time or something)

Obviously yes, it was all down to budget - simplest way to make an alien is to take a person and add a bit of prosthetic. However, it's not unreasonable to assume that life will follow certain standard evolutionary pathways.

Cells/Tissues/Organs/Systems: There's a good chance that most life will be cellular-based in some form. The easiest way to build anything is from small pieces of distinct types. Like life on this planet it could well be organised into tissues and organs.

DNA: Obviously it's unlikely that any other life will use DNA, but they're likely to store their genetic information somehow. It could be in a long polymer like DNA, or it could be on a surface or some other form. But in any case, life requires replication so it'll need some kind of replicating chemical data structure.

Eyes: These will almost certainly exist everywhere. They appear to have evolved several times on Earth, they're easy to make and they're an obviously useful sense organ. Any mobile life form needs to have some sense of its surroundings and light is everywhere. What's more, they'll probably use frequencies similar to ours because those are the frequencies most easily detectable by cells. Once you have eyes, there's a good chance you'll also get some use of visual signals for communication.

Ears: Like eyes, these seem pretty much guaranteed. Sound waves are a useful source of information. Once you have ears, there's a good chance you'll also get some use of sound for communication.

Smell/taste: These are pretty much the same thing - a sense based on identifying individual molecules in the near vicinity. Seems a good chance most life will have something like it, but it's likely to be very different from ours. Once you have smell, there's a good chance you'll also get some use of chemical signals for communication.

Brain: It seems likely that any life will evolve some kind of central nervous system but whether it would necessarily have a single organ that controls it seems up for grabs.

Ecology: All life will have to take in energy and use it to move, grow and reproduce. That means we'd be likely to see similar patterns emerging everywhere - producers that take in readily available energy in the form of light, heat or chemical energy from volcanoes and such, and other organisms that eat them or each other. And once you have predators and prey, you're likely to see similar evolutionary strategies such as fast running, camouflage, poison etc.

So all in all, I think there's a pretty good chance that if there is life elsewhere, we'd find it quite recognisable. I've even seen it argued that *intelligent* life has a good chance of looking a bit like us - ie, vertically oriented, with a head at the top and sense organs on it, manipulator appendages half-way down and legs at the bottom. I'm not convinced but I get the argument.

Psychobabble:
In other words "Scientists more than happy to make earthshaking predictions they know they'll never have to back up with actual proof."

More like "Media more than happy to mis-quote scientists and get the math wrong" - to whit:

NASA astronomers have estimated that as many as 20 billion of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy have planets that could potentially sustain life.

What the "NASA astronomers" ACTUALLY do is estimate that roughly 1 in 5 (22%) of SUN-LIKE stars in the Milky Way have a rocky planet, 1-2 times the mass of Earth, within the "habitable zone".

As to whether this increases the chances of us finding extraterrestrial life... it helps us narrow the search for life "as we know it"

Well then we'd better get on with developing interstellar spacecraft before the aliens steal all the good planets.

The problem with Alien Life is the problem we face right now. The majority of our species is stupid. Really stupid. Embarrassingly stupid. Sadly these are often the people in charge of things. Communities, cities, politics, religions, committees, nations and so on. Under the capable charge of these people we are basically doomed to go extinct from a massive war, mass extinction event, regression into more primitive technology because of a lack of resources and the list just goes on with possible scenarios where we end up screwing ourselves over before we reach the Star Trek era.\

The same could be said for other life forms on different planets. Sci-fi has the habit of portraying them as one giant culture or one giant collectively agreeing group 99% of the time. That's of course bullshit.

Most likely any other life forms on our level have the same problems and are slowly tilting over the edge into screwing everything up. It is possible other life has already existed way before us, but that they simply never made it out of their solar system because they to destroyed themselves before that point.

Now whilst I am optimistic humanity can cross this hurdle eventually the largest limiting factor to ever meeting alien life forms would be the self limiting factor of a species' stupidity.

The possibilities for intelligent life is quite exciting. Just think, a few years back we didn't even know for sure if there were any exoplanets. I hope we do discover alien life, and then have this conversation:

Us: So do you guys know about Earth?
Aliens: Yeah man, we've known about you for like a long time
Us: So how come you never tried to contact us?
Aliens: Because your planet is full of assholes

But it does beg the question, "If there are so many possibilities for intelligent life, how come we don't detect any or they don't contact us?"

The Extra Credit guys did a good discussion of that and the whole Drake equation thing earlier this year if you haven't seen it: http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/funding-xcom-part-1

Just maybe the reason more advanced civilizations don't want to talk to us really is because they think we suck.

The_Darkness:
Um... I think that title should be "NASA predicts that..." - the BBC are just doing the reporting on it.

Anyway, I'm not that surprised, but I am aware that everything that makes alien life more likely also makes the Fermi Paradox more of a problem...

Helllooo? This?

This?

Anyone? This?

For everyone who appears to have glossed over the Fermi Paradox, the idea is that even WITHOUT FTL travel (Generational ships and colonies) as old as the galaxy is, assuming X civilizations survive to the point of space travel and they colonize the stars for Y years, large sections of the galaxy should have been colonized many times over by now. We should have made contact at some point, if not we should at the very least have some kind of evidence of them existing.
But so far as we know, neither has occurred. I will point out there have been some very interesting archeological discoveries since the theory was introduced (yeah yeah, "Aliens") with surprisingly advanced technology that we can only now understand hinted at.

I only vaguely remember these, so they may have been disproved. I'm sure some googling could find them, but:

A golden sculpture of what appears to be a bulbous modern aircraft, thousands of years old in a sunken city. A model was tested in a wind tunnel, and actually had workable aerodynamic properties.

A bizzare looking sculpture of at first appears to be an utter abstract work of a man or other creature. Though parts could be removed and it resembled more of a man in a containment suit complete with protective gloves, oxygen mask and other curious elements.

Various hinting towards meetings with gods themselves throughout history, the old sci-fi writer's saying comes to mind "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from technology".

That said, with the Fermi paradox many often consider that virtually no life has left its solar system considering the cost of doing so in resources and the lack of significant reasons as why to do so.
So it's likely that either:
Life has existed and may currently, but has no reason to leave the solar system.
We are the only intelligent (Relatively speaking :P) life in the universe.
We have been visited before, but they specifically are keeping themselves hidden or us sheltered.

@nuba km
Ah, sorry missed your post on it. I appreciate you consider the human perspective from outside the usual hollywood norm (We may in fact be the beastial ones)

The_Darkness:

Anyway, I'm not that surprised, but I am aware that everything that makes alien life more likely also makes the Fermi Paradox more of a problem...

siomasm:

Helllooo? This?

This?

Anyone? This?

theres a lot of answers to the Fermi paradox, from the straight up sci fi like star trek. untill your planet kills god and starts warp travel theres a strict policy of non interference.

through to the more scientific and the one i like myself.
stars are forges each generation manufactures more and more complex elements so our complexity of life simply could not of existed before generation X of stars , so although our universe is 14 bln years old we have only just become possible.

the fermi paradox also assumes they not only have intelligence but our imagination our way of conceptualising the universe and therefore our goals. which we clearly know to be bunk , Orcas are extremely intelligent highly ordered societies and they have zero desire to colonize and spread.

there are quite a lot of "intelligent" life forms on this planet, Orcas, whales, a lot of mammals to some degree, primates etc we are the odd ones out the rest are content with a simple life. you need a particular arrogance and inability to deal with mortality to think like a human.

its the old Douglas Adams quote about man being the third most intelligent not the second as most assumed, man thought he was more intelligent because he had accomplished so much more, wars, auto immune diseases, employment etc and all the dolphins had ever done was mess around in the water having a great time. dolphins thought they were more inteligent for exactly the same reasons.

DocZombie:

Psychobabble:
In other words "Scientists more than happy to make earthshaking predictions they know they'll never have to back up with actual proof."

More like "Media more than happy to mis-quote scientists and get the math wrong" - to whit:

NASA astronomers have estimated that as many as 20 billion of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy have planets that could potentially sustain life.

What the "NASA astronomers" ACTUALLY do is estimate that roughly 1 in 5 (22%) of SUN-LIKE stars in the Milky Way have a rocky planet, 1-2 times the mass of Earth, within the "habitable zone".

As to whether this increases the chances of us finding extraterrestrial life... it helps us narrow the search for life "as we know it"

^This.
I was initially perplexed by the claim as quoted by Bogos, just knowing that most stars are NOT AT ALL friendly for developing life.

As for the Fermi paradox and why we haven't been visited; Great distance translates to greater travel time, and time is the real enemy. Even with preparation and design several times more sophisticated than what we can do, there are so many things that can go wrong over the course of travel and given such a relatively enormous time span (to life or even mechanics) even small systematic errors will eventually translate to critical failure.

And that assumes enough of, if any of the colony population survived after traveling for so long.
(hibernation or artificial reconstruction is the most logical, as it minimizes required biological processes and keeps the population from degrading mentally socially and physically for such a comparatively extreme period of time)

And all of THAT assumes life as complex as us was able to exist elsewhere and reach the degree of dominance and order that we have with the impetus of expanding beyond our home system. For all we know, we are the only species to EVER actually leave our planet of our own accord.

Psychobabble:
In other words "Scientists more than happy to make earthshaking predictions they know they'll never have to back up with actual proof."

They outright state that even if the estimate is accurate, it takes more than just being in the goldilocks zone for a planet to be habitable. In other words, they temper potential enthusiasm for their own prediction. Some people need to read the entire article before bothering to respond.

zumbledum:
its the old Douglas Adams quote about man being the third most intelligent not the second as most assumed, man thought he was more intelligent because he had accomplished so much more, wars, auto immune diseases, employment etc

Don't forget the digital watch!

omega 616:
Why does life need water to survive? Is it totally beyond the realm of possibility that life could be totally different somewhere else?

It's possible that there could be organisms that don't need water, but from our limited understanding of life (we can only make assumptions based on what we find on Earth after all) almost all life requires liquid water to function. It's also the second most abundant molecule in the Universe so if life exists it is probably going to take advantage of the resources most available. If there are aliens that use a totally different form of biochemistry then chances are they might be simple bacteria or plants, after all life doesn't always mean intelligence.

When I'm watching star trek (or other similar shows) it always strikes me as odd that 90% of aliens are identical to humans... They all are bipedal, legs, arms, head, shoulders etc they just have other stuff, like ridges and big ears. (I know it was probably down to budget or time or something)

Pretty much this, it's cheaper to stick some silly putty on a guys face and call him an alien than to pay for a convincing CGI alien race to be designed and animated then edited in to an episode. I guess there is also some kind of superiority complex going on too that suggests humanoids are more advanced than other animals, so other intelligent lifeforms would be similar to us.

Taking that same idea, why do aliens need to follow our predefined rules for life?

I'm probably speaking from a very ignorant point of view but I like to keep a very open mind about other forms of life. I mean there are teeny tiny hippo looking creatures on this planet that have been subjected to all kinds of tests and lived, they just hibernate till the abuse stops.

They don't need to at all, but we don't have a complete picture of the Universe so we just assume that the things we know work on Earth will work elsewhere. Since water and sunlight are pretty popular then our best chance of finding life is to look for wet planets with a similar star to our own. Which leads us to assume that the things living there will be at least a bit similar to stuff here, like trees, grasses, fish and bacteria. There could bewildly different lifeforms but unless we know the conditions they require for life then we will have a hell of a difficult time spotting them from a distance.

I think it would be kind of cool if there was another... Dimension (for lack of a better word) to this planet and there was another species/form of life living on the same planet as us but neither species/form of life knew about the other. Like I said, I like to keep an open mind, science is cool and all (my favourite subject in school) but it doesn't have every answer yet.

Well for a good long time people didn't know about bacteria, then when we 'discovered' them we found out the bastards are everywhere! They're just really small. And that expanded our definition of 'life' it due time it might get even bigger when we find other wacky things.

Psychobabble:
In other words "Scientists more than happy to make earthshaking predictions they know they'll never have to back up with actual proof."

I think you'll find that scientists, these ones included, are generally very cautious about what conclusions they make from their findings - especially when it comes to predictions. The media, however, are not.

omega 616:
When I'm watching star trek (or other similar shows) it always strikes me as odd that 90% of aliens are identical to humans... They all are bipedal, legs, arms, head, shoulders etc they just have other stuff, like ridges and big ears. (I know it was probably down to budget or time or something)

When it comes specifically to Star Trek, they actually have an in-universe explanation for that given in TNG season 6 (Episode 20: The Chase) - all the humanoid races commonly seen were seeded by an ancient space-faring species that was annihilated for unknown reasons. The same applies for all living life on their planets in general, hence why there are alien versions of everything from birds to cocoa beans.

CriticalMiss:

It's possible that there could be organisms that don't need water, but from our limited understanding of life (we can only make assumptions based on what we find on Earth after all) almost all life requires liquid water to function. It's also the second most abundant molecule in the Universe so if life exists it is probably going to take advantage of the resources most available. If there are aliens that use a totally different form of biochemistry then chances are they might be simple bacteria or plants, after all life doesn't always mean intelligence.

They don't need to at all, but we don't have a complete picture of the Universe so we just assume that the things we know work on Earth will work elsewhere. Since water and sunlight are pretty popular then our best chance of finding life is to look for wet planets with a similar star to our own. Which leads us to assume that the things living there will be at least a bit similar to stuff here, like trees, grasses, fish and bacteria. There could bewildly different lifeforms but unless we know the conditions they require for life then we will have a hell of a difficult time spotting them from a distance.

I think the biggest problem with trying to find life elsewhere is that we have yet to have any sort of indication that life can exist in any other form from any other chemicals than those that already exist here on Earth, including intelligent life, and as a result we're pretty much locked into thinking that life out there can only exist in similar conditions. This way of thinking handicaps us because it prevents us from looking anywhere but Earth-like planets, and it's entirely possible even if highly unlikely that life can exist in countless forms and be made out of countless combinations of chemicals that can't work here. If it's possible that life could exist in say, a gas giant at all then it's damn near certain that somewhere in the universe it's probably eventually happened at least once.

Pretty much this, it's cheaper to stick some silly putty on a guys face and call him an alien than to pay for a convincing CGI alien race to be designed and animated then edited in to an episode. I guess there is also some kind of superiority complex going on too that suggests humanoids are more advanced than other animals, so other intelligent lifeforms would be similar to us.

Though it's true that just taking people and sticking some prosthetic ears and such is a very cheap way to make an alien, there's more to it than that. It also doesn't have to do with a superiority complex, more than anything it has to do with relatability. Like it or not, as a species we humans have a much easier time identifying with the appearance and motivations of something that looks and acts more or less human than we do with the Ambiguous Blob Creatures of Planet X who do things that appear to make no logical sense. For these reasons it's just more convenient and effective for everybody across the board to throw some pointy ears on a actor and call him an alien.

Having said that, I am getting a little tired of everything just looking and acting just like people in various fiction, not just Sci-Fi. These days I've finding it easier to be interested in things that don't look all that human, probably just because it's more original.

Mr.K.:
...yes many solar systems have a Goldilocks zone but that doesn't mean there is a planet in it...

If you think about it every star will have a 'Goldilocks zone' seeing as it's just a matter of the right distance, whereas what they're reporting is that they think 1 in 5 stars will have a planet in it.

Alleged_Alec:
There are plenty of non-water liquids which could be used by alien species.

omega 616:
Why does life need water to survive? Is it totally beyond the realm of possibility that life could be totally different somewhere else?

I came here because I knew there would be some people asking this, and while other life sustaining chemicals are not out of the question, many people just don't realise just how special water is: [please, forgive my nerdyness for a sec here]

1) It's an excellent solvent, the reason so much of our body is water is because so many of the things we need (such as sugars, salts, buffers, metals) have to be dissolved in water to not only be easily transferred around the body, but also just perform the function we need them to. For example an acid won't do anything until it's dissolved in water.

2) Ice Floats (water is one of very few chemicals that are less dense when solids). If it weren't for those spare electrons pushing the the hydrogens up into what can only be described as a 'Micky Mouse' shape, and the uniform lattice formed because the hydrogen bonds, then none of us would be here right now.

3) It's EVERYWHERE! Unlike uranium, it doesn't take quite as much effort for a star to make oxygen, and the day we run out of hydrogen is that day (give or take a few billion years) that the universe stops working. If life is to be sustained then its fundamental chemicals probably need to be quite abundant. It is very often either a reactant or product of a huge amount of very important reactions with organic chemicals, which also have a heavy reliance on hydrogen and oxygen.

4) Water is perfectly neutral; for every H+ it has an OH-, so it's neither acidic nor basic.

5) Water has a particularly high specific thermal capacity (in layman's terms, it takes a lot of energy to heat it up). This is why watery foods like tomatoes stay hot for longer, and inversely why splashing water on yourself cools you down. Both are very important to life.

6) Because of aforementioned hydrogen bonds, water has a relatively high melting point, but not too high. High enough for things such as oxygen to exist along side it as a gas but low enough for pretty much everything else to be a solid (which is what you want). It's also quite handy that its temperature range for being a liquid is short enough that it can exist as all 3 states on a single planet (think of the water cycle) and yet it's importantly much longer than something like hydrogen or nitrogen, which are only liquids within a range of about 5 or 10 degrees.

It's not that we haven't considered if other chemicals could sustain life, it's just that you'd be hard-pressed to find one that does everything water does.

Yes, the one thing this species that evolved on the third rock from the sun needs to do is leave this planet. But before we leave, let's take a brief moment to ask ourselves...

wombat_of_war:
seriously? this is amazing news. it wasnt that long ago that they didnt even know if extrasolar planets even existed and its suddenly become meh

It's not amazing. It sort of follows common sense logic. If nearly every point we can see in the sky is a star, it stands to reason that some are analogous to our own solar system in even the most distant grips of similarity. By that I mean a star having some thing orbiting around it.

In the Milky Way galaxy, it's estimated that there are between 100-400 billion (100,000,000,000 - 400,000,000,000) stars, many of which we can't even see because of our position in said galaxy.

In the Andromeda galaxy, it is estimated that there are around 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000) stars.

On the whole, it is estimated that there are about 170 billion (170,000,000,000) galaxies in the observable universe.

Even if we take the lower estimate of the Milky Way and slash it in half (50 billion stars per galaxy), the number of stars that exist, or have existed, can only be expressed in numbers that have no meaning to the human brain (around 8.5 sextillion stars). Suppose 10% of those stars has a habitable planet - that's still roughly 850 quintillion planets.

Honestly, this news isn't that amazing. Not nearly as amazing as the proof of extrasolar planets. Notice the quote "astronomers have estimated that..."

Good for them. Guessing isn't amazing.

I'm waiting for the first pictures of an extrasolar planet. Or, fuck, even a star. Not this wishy-washy UV or infrared bullshit that is of only interest to basically scientists. I'm talking pictures like the Jupiter shots that the Voyager or Galileo satellites took. It's unlikely to happen during the course of my lifetime, or perhaps even human existence, but that would be amazing.

Alexander Kirby:
snip

I don't mean to be rude but "yes, and?". I know water has a special set of skills, like super fluidity but what does that have to do with what I said? Water does that shit on this planet and to life on it but the universe is fucked up place.

I'm just of the opinion that what applies to our little hunk rock doesn't mean it applies to everything in the universe. There could be life in those gas giants but scientists have ruled that out 'cos "well nothing on earth could live there." Yeah and once humans thought they were the centre of the universe.

I'm not saying there is life there but keep an open mind. We only just got to Mars and we're defining what planets need for life.... I think we're too ignorant for that.

Shraggler:

wombat_of_war:
seriously? this is amazing news. it wasnt that long ago that they didnt even know if extrasolar planets even existed and its suddenly become meh

It's not amazing. It sort of follows common sense logic. If nearly every point we can see in the sky is a star, it stands to reason that some are analogous to our own solar system in even the most distant grips of similarity. By that I mean a star having some thing orbiting around it.

In the Milky Way galaxy, it's estimated that there are between 100-400 billion (100,000,000,000 - 400,000,000,000) stars, many of which we can't even see because of our position in said galaxy.

In the Andromeda galaxy, it is estimated that there are around 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000) stars.

On the whole, it is estimated that there are about 170 billion (170,000,000,000) galaxies in the observable universe.

Even if we take the lower estimate of the Milky Way and slash it in half (50 billion stars per galaxy), the number of stars that exist, or have existed, can only be expressed in numbers that have no meaning to the human brain (around 8.5 sextillion stars). Suppose 10% of those stars has a habitable planet - that's still roughly 850 quintillion planets.

Honestly, this news isn't that amazing. Not nearly as amazing as the proof of extrasolar planets. Notice the quote "astronomers have estimated that..."

Good for them. Guessing isn't amazing.

I'm waiting for the first pictures of an extrasolar planet. Or, fuck, even a star. Not this wishy-washy UV or infrared bullshit that is of only interest to basically scientists. I'm talking pictures like the Jupiter shots that the Voyager or Galileo satellites took. It's unlikely to happen during the course of my lifetime, or perhaps even human existence, but that would be amazing.

Yeah. You really didn't read what the scientist did. The scientist studied over 40k stars (Sun-like stars) and saw how many of those stars have Earth-like planets in a place that could harbour Earth-like life. That is a pretty extensive and well done research. It has statistical basis that seein thet number is a good number. That is no simple guessing. That is statistics, science. Please don't dismiss it because you don't get what they did. It is pretty amazing (and refines Drake's equation, depending on how you feel about it). This is telling us that with good techonolgy and not necessarilly FTL, Humans could colonize other star systems in the future. It is awe inspiring to think that in a short 12 ly there might be a planet which humans can colonize. THat is awesome and amazing.

omega 616:

Alexander Kirby:
snip

I don't mean to be rude but "yes, and?". I know water has a special set of skills, like super fluidity but what does that have to do with what I said? Water does that shit on this planet and to life on it but the universe is fucked up place.

I'm just of the opinion that what applies to our little hunk rock doesn't mean it applies to everything in the universe. There could be life in those gas giants but scientists have ruled that out 'cos "well nothing on earth could live there." Yeah and once humans thought they were the centre of the universe.

I'm not saying there is life there but keep an open mind. We only just got to Mars and we're defining what planets need for life.... I think we're too ignorant for that.

Water isn't a super fluid. Super fluids only exist really near the 0 K range, and by then water is rather freezed by then.

ALso, well, yes, everything in the Universe is like our hunk of rock. A basic premise of Science is that there is no excptional place in the Universe, so the rules here are the same as those everywhere (outside an event horizon, at least). So it is possible to make assumptions. You can't have hydorgen molecules carry information (it si not complex enough), so I doubt there is a hydrogen lifeform out there. Complex molecules need some conditions. It is unlikely that they would form in the surface of gas giants because pressure is so high those kind of complex molecules would break.

Not "everything" is possible.

Also. I think the title should be clearer. FIrst not all stars, it is only the Sun-like (so no binary systems, which account for quite a bit of the stars if I recall correctly). NOt habitable but in the habitable zone. Good to know and interesting research, but title is unclear.

omega 616:

Alexander Kirby:
snip

another snip

As I said right at the beginning of my post:

'other life sustaining chemicals are not out of the question, many people just don't realise just how special water is'

Nothing is out of the question, but trust me when I say the chances are low, water is just too unique. We've even found micro-organisms in the upper atmosphere that scientists are fairly confident came from space, and they're made of water too, that's what all cells contain and need. Life is so improbable that we're frankly lucky it works at all. DNA is so complex how could there possibly be anything else? These views may be ignorant, but for now they're also pretty safe assumptions.

Do forgive me if I go on for a bit but I'm a MASSIVE water fanboy. I live on the Malvern Hills in the UK where I collect my own water, arguably the finest water in the world. (Well that's obviously a matter of personal preference, but the Queen drinks it exclusively, so it's probably up there)

 

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