In February 2012 a scientist at the University of British Columbia named Rosie Redfield cast doubt on the 2010 claims of Felisa Wolfe-Simon about bacteria that she claimed live off the abundant Arsenic in Mono Lake in California. This would be quite a breakthrough with major implications for looking for life on other planets. Arsenic is under Phosphorus in the same column of the periodic table of chemical elements. Due to this arsenic is to some extent able to mimic the properties of phosphorus. However because arsenic also has somewhat different properties this usually makes it poisonous to people and animals. The researcher Redfield didn't succeed in getting any cells of the bacteria in question GFAJ-1 to grow totally lacking phosphorus. However Redfield's results haven't yet been published in a peer reviewed scientific journal so her results are not fully official yet or fully open to examination by other scientists. However this result further casts doubt on Felisa Wolfe-Simon's results as has the lack of confirmation by other scientists generally since December 2010 when Wolfe-Simon made her initial announcement. If this bacteria is still confirmed as being able to survive in arsenic with little or no phosphorus this would have important implications for astrobiology but right not the initial results don't look like they have much solid support.
There have recently been released two major studies about the claims of Arsenic consuming life by Felicia Wolfe-Simon in 2010. Both these studies seriously cast doubt on the ability of the bacteria in question to rely totally on arsenic for life as some phosphorus was detected and it is thought this could be at least partly what this bacteria is living on.
In November 2011 a new extrasolar planet was discovered with catalogue number GJ 667C c. This star and planet are 22.7 light years away in the constellation Scorpio. The planet itself is about 3.8 earth masses so almost certainly has a solid surface. The parent star of this planet is a red dwarf and therefore is much fainter and cooler than our sun and also gives more of its light in the red part of the spectrum and infrared. Even though this planet is only about 26,000,000 miles in its distance from its parent star or about 0.28 times the distance of earth from our sun the much fainter brightness of its star means that the planet could still be in the habitable zone of its parent star. The only difficult thing about this planet is that it could well be tidally locked with its parent star which could mean that there might only be a thin ring in the day night boundary on the edge of the planet that would have tolerable temperatures as could be common for planets in the habitable zone of red dwarf planets in general. The habitability of this planet including whether more of it could be habitable than just a ring around its day night boundary or terminator will also depend on what atmosphere GJ 667C c has been able to keep and how much of a greenhouse effect is present. The capital C means this star is part of a triple star system although the other stars would not contribute that much additional light and the small c means that this planet is the second found around this star. I was personally surprised at the lack of attention in the media even in the space media on this discovery as finding habitable planets is supposed to be one of the most important and one can argue the most inspiring to the public goals of astronomy today and for the forseeable future. The data in this article are from or derived from Extrasolar Encyclopedia which is quite comprehensive in announcing all legitimate extrasolar planet discoveries. Although this planet could have oceans or lakes of liquid water that hasn't been discovered or proven yet neither has it been determined what is the composition and extent of its atmosphere. As a born again Christian I think it is possible there could be bacteria like life or even plants or animals or other large scale life although many other born again Christians would not even allow for this but I would say if there is this life it is an example of the diversity, greatness and wisdom of God's creation. However as a Christian I do not think there will be found any intelligent life there humanoid or otherwise especially that would have spirits as people do as the bible doesn't mention anything like this and if they sinned there would also be the problem about what God would do to save them and whether the death and resurrection of God's Son Jesus Christ on earth would have any benefit to them.
In early February the main press release finally came for GJ 667 C c. I had been in contact with a professor from Puerto Rico associated with the visual extrasolar encyclopedia who said that the reason there wasn't more press attention in November 2011 to this planet was because the discoverers were waiting until they had done further study and almost had their paper ready for publication in a major science journal. This finally happened in February 2012 and there was considerably more press attention at least in space web sites and the BBC but I still didn't hear anything about it on daytime Canadian radio even on the day of the discovery or the next day unfortunately. Just some corrections to the above information. This planet is now thought to have 4.5 times the mass of earth. Also the period of this planet's orbit around its parent star is about 28 days. This planet obtains 90% of the light that Earth receives but more of this is in the infrared to it actually absorbs a comparable amount of power as earth. The parent star is very poor in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium so it was thought unlikely it would have a rocky planet but this seems to be what GJ 667 C c is. This means that there might be many more rocky planets in our galaxy as these red dwarf stars are by far the most common. The concern I gave above for possible tidal locking still stands but especially if this is not the case GJ 667 C c is the most habitable planet yet being right in the middle of its parent star's habitable zone. For possible philosophical or theological implications see the above initial description of this planet.
This first week of May 2007 I heard on the radio that scientists have discovered for the first time molecular oxygen or O2 in interstellar space. Although this isn't really a surprise that it should be there, I think it probably had a weak spectral pattern that made it difficult to detect for a long time since many other more exotic molecules have already been detected. The discovery of molecular oxygen which of course humans and animals and many bacteria species or kinds rely on for respiration on earth in interstellar space at least leaves the door open that it could also be in the atmospheres of some extrasolar planets perhaps even in sizable quantities. This together with the discovery many years before of water in interstellar space as well as other organic chemicals could further enhance the prospects of at least simple life beyond our solar system although this by no means proves this yet. In a table of molecules found in interstellar space up to about 1985 methane or natural gas CH4 and carbon dioxide CO2 were up to then not listed as discovered. However on a web page dedicated to listing interstellar molecules methane and carbon dioxide are listed as of November 2005. by now. The matter whether methane and carbon dioxide have been discovered in interstellar space and therefore are likely to exist on extrasolar planets would be a very major factor in deciding how common life is in outer space. This is especially true for life resembling that on Earth.
In early August 2011 scientists confirmed the existence of molecular oxygen in space. This more recent discovery was a more definite detection of oxygen than the one in 2007. This current discovery was found in the Orion Nebula about 1500 light years away. However there is still only a relatively small amount of this substance discovered there. It is thought by some of the scientists that the molecular oxygen could be bound to water or some other substances that would hide its identification by spectroscopy. As the article noted oxygen is the third most common element in the universe after hydrogen and helium so one would think molecular oxygen would be an easier molecule to find. From an astrobiology perspective, this is important since molecular oxygen is essential for the breathing of humans and all the animals on earth and perhaps of similiar life forms on other planets. Therefore this confirmation of molecular oxygen in space gives more confidence that similiar life as that on earth could exist on other planets in our galaxy or elsewhere in the universe. From a biblical Christian viewpoint which I hold I believe it is possible we could eventually find life forms similiar to our animals or animal bacteria on other planets but I don't think we will find counterparts of humans for theological reasons such as that the Bible doesn't clearly mention such life and there is the matter of sin and the possible need for a saviour for any spiritual beings on other planets.
The possibility of finding life outside our solar system has always been closely connected to the discovery of planets around other stars which hadn't been proven until late in the last century. There was then the real possibility that the human race was not only unique and alone but that also ours was the only solar system with planets in the galaxy or universe although this didn't seem very likely in general considerations. Although there have been candidates for extra-solar planets for several decades, none of these were on very firm grounds concerning the detection method or clarity of the evidence. The most famous of these former candidate extra-solar planets was the planet around the very near red-dwarf star Barnard's Star. This planet and most of the other former candidate planets of other stars have now been discounted. The first solid candidate planets of another star were found in 1995 ironically around a pulsar that is probably a neutron star. This type of star is thought to have been generated by the implosion of the star resulting from a supernovae explosion that should have vaporized any planets of that star although this is apparently not the case for this pulsar star and its planets. Several years later around 2000 the first better substantiated planets of other stars were found around other stars by indirect methods. The most common method was to use one of Newton's laws of gravity that two masses revolve around their common centre of mass. This means that a planet around a star should cause a slight movement of its parent star around their common centre of gravity. This would normally include a component of movement of the parent star away or toward our sun, earth and solar system which could be measured as a doppler shift in the spectrum of the light from the parent star. The only case where this would not be the case is if the other solar system had its planet(s) orbiting its parent star face on as seen from Earth. Of course the larger and more massive the planets of other stars especially relative to the mass of their parent stars the more effect they would have on the parent star revolving around their common centre of gravity and the larger apparent change in position of the parent star as seen from Earth and the greater Doppler Shift in the parent star's light as seen from Earth. Therefore the search of extra-solar planets was confined to planets in mass approximately equal or larger to the largest planet in our solar system Jupiter around solar mass stars at first. Solar mass stars were also chosen because for a number of reasons it is thought they would be most conducive for providing a life-sustaining environment for planets around them at the right distance. This distance would vary with the luminosity or light output and output of other electromagnetic radiation by the parent star. In the case of our sun the habitable zone for life as we know it is from 0.95 to 1.37 Astronomical Units (AU). An astronomical unit is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun which is about 93,000,000 miles so our Earth is near the inner edge of the habitable zone around our sun. Although there have been several extrasolar planets with orbits with at least the right average distance from their sun and right average temperature for possible earthlike life all these planets found so far are gas giants like Jupiter with no discernible surface or none that could possibly be reached or that would support life since they would be under 1000s of miles of dense air although they could have earthlike or habitable moons which we have not detected. However most of these planets in this range have very elliptical orbits with a vast difference between their nearest and furthest points from their parent stars and therefore in the planets' temperature extremes and the extremes any possible life on these planets would have to endure. See the table on extrasolar.net for more details. Earlier this year there was discovered a planet with only 7.5 to 5.9 earth masses around another star which means it is probably the first rocky or terrestrial planet discovered but unfortunately it is very close to its parent star only a couple million miles and its surface temperature would be over 1000 degrees and it would be unable to support life as we know it even though it is probably less than twice the diameter of earth and would have gravity and size somewhat comparable to earth.
On February 2, 2011 there was a major press conference by Nasa of the latest results in the Kepler program to search for extrasolar planets. All the planets that Kepler finds are transiting planets that transit (like a mini-eclipse) or go across the face of their parent star as seen from Earth. This causes a temporary reduction in the light output of the star as seen from earth because the planet does not shine by its own heat and does not shine at all in the side facing away from its star so the overall amount of light when the planet is in front of or transiting the star is at a reduced level. The time of the transit allows astronomers to detect a probable planet and then they would wait for a similiar further reduction of the stars light which would indicate one revolution of the planet in front of its star or one of that planet's years. The size of the planet can be determined by the amount of light the planet blocks when it transits its parent star with its year combining to indicate the planet's actual not just its relative size since the period of the year also indicates the distance from its parent star. Anyway with the earlier candidates or not yet confirmed planets Kepler now has 1235 candidate planets it is examining. These planets are examined quite carefully before they are announced as candidates but they will be some say 15-20% that will be disqualified as planets on further examination but the rest should hold up as planets. Among these there were over 50 planets in their star's habitable zone where liquid water could exist and life something like that on earth could survive. There were also over 50 planets that were earth-size or earth-mass at least approximately. I don't know the exact definitions of ranges astronomers have given for these categories but I think they would be fairly tight definitions to be realistic about these planets being suitable for life as we know it. There were 5 of these 50 planets on both lists that were on both lists that is these planets were in their star's habitable zones and the planets were earth-like. There will probably be more of these planets in the progress of Kepler's mission especially around more sun-like stars where the habitable zone is further out and their years are more similiar to an earth year of 365 earth days. I don't know what the average distance of the Kepler planets that it has detected in general or the over 50 in their star's habitable zone or that are earthlike planets or that would be on both lists but unfortunately most of the Kepler planets discovered so far have been very far away (from 500 to 2000 light years) so it would be difficult to get more information about them even if they are earth-like planets in their star's habitable zone such as through spectroscopy of their atmosphere as the signals would be very weak and difficult to analyze. However if this could be done it would indicate the temperature of the planet's atmosphere and some of its constituents. Compounds like molecular oxygen O2 or methane (natural gas) CH4 could indicate some like processes at least if it had life similiar to earth's as would chlorophyl concerning plants or something similiar but any life might have totally different chemistry and could even be based on something different than water such as chlorine or sulfur compounds. Another problem of some great distances is that to send even a one-way unmanned probe would be very timeconsuming and expensive taking thousands of years as would a search for intelligent life or seti through radio or other electromagnetic radiation that would go at the speed of light and take 500 to 2000 years. However ground based telescopes or the Hubble or other space telescopes could determine the mass of these planets and together with their size could determine their densities which could indicate approximately what these planets are composed of for instance metals or rocky material, ices or gases. This was also have a bearing on the planets' prospects for life. There are some other things that astronomers could probably do now to assess the prospects for life on suitable planets such as monitor more carefully their parent stars for stellar flares or variability that could affect any life their. With the doppler method of the gravitational tug of the planet on its parent star and this transit method the eccentricity of the planets' orbits could be determined which could indicate how much extremes of temperature the planet would have and how much this is likely to have a prospect of life either primitive such as microbes or something more advanced on the planets. Using ground based telescopes the stars of these planets could be better identified and their distances determined. This could also indicate what radiation is in the area of the planet among other things. I am not sure how close we might be to determining the period of rotation of these planets but since they are transiting this is at least possible if we could get a clear enough signal from them. If their rotation could be determined this would also give us a clearer idea of what type of life if any they could support. We would also want to look for water in the atmosphere of these planets since most life on earth required water to survive and it is well suited to supporting life. As a Bible believing Christian who is also interested in astronomy and other science as I have said before I think it is possible there could be life beyond earth and that God could have created it that way rather than it spontaneously evolved separate from earth as God is a wise and all-powerful and creative God and is well able to do this in my mind although I think the most we would find in life beyond earth would be something like microbes or perhaps planets or animals but not intelligent life like humans that is not extraterrestrial intelligence. I believe this because the Bible doesn't really mention such beings clearly and there is the problem of sin and salvation from sin for them would God's salvation for Jesus count for them or would they need their own saviour and would our sin on earth affect them too at the Garden of Eden. Also I think the lack of clear results from the Seti program or clear manifestation of aliens is also an indication of the lack of extraterrestrial life. I believe some of the UFOs and aliens on them are real but they are quite evasive and seem quite consistant with how the Bible describes demons or fallen angels. This is what has been discovered so far with Kepler and what further information could be gained soon and what I think could be found but we will have to see what is actually found especially for the planets that are both in the habitable zones and are earthlike or additional such planets which I look forward to and would encourage you to follow as it could soon answer one of humanity's oldest and most profound questions that is are there other earths in space.
In December 2010 the results of the analysis of the atmosphere of extrasolar planet GJ 1214b was announced. This planet is located about 40 light years from earth which is still relatively close by interstellar standards. It is somewhere between the size of Earth and gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn and is not too different than Neptune in our solar system. However this planet is extremely close to its parent star and therefore very hot. This planet also transits its parent star as seen from Earth so its atmosphere can be analyzed through the spectrum of the light of the parent star shining through the atmosphere of this planet around its edge. It turns out that there is a dominant spectral line for water in its atmosphere and so far not much else. This could be either because water is definitely the main constituent of its atmoshere or because there is a foggy layer that hides any gases that might be in the lower layers of its atmosphere. Astronomers plan to use infrared telescopes to look at other wavelengths in the infrared corresponding to other common or important molecules and see if they are present. Although there is plenty of water in the atmosphere of this planet and it likely has a solid surface in most likely does not support any life because it is much too close to its parent star and would be too hot for life. The planet is about 6.5 times the mass of earth and 2.5 times our planet's diameter. What this means for life is that even in planets with probable terrestrial or rocky surfaces that water is plentiful since we found abundant indications of it in the first terrestrial planet we have been able to take a close look at. Since water is necessary for most life on earth including more advanced life like larger animals or intelligent life of humans, the discovery of water in the first terrestrial planet we have looked at is a promising indication that life could be common on other planets especially microbial life. However, especially for advanced life there are many other factors that are neccessary for life on Earth and possibly on other planets such as an appreciable magnetic field, such land and see areas, perhaps oxygen or carbon dioxide, plate tecktonics and a large moon. From a biblical Christian viewpoint, although no convincing extraterrestrial life has yet been found, this discovery of plentiful water vapour in the atmosphere of this terrestrial extrasolar planet could be an indication that at least microbial life or perhaps even some plant or animal life is present on other world but I still doubt that intelligent life is present partly because we would have seen more indications of their presence and partly on theological grounds that there are no clear mention of them in the Bible and there would be difficulties for their salvation if they sinned would they be dependent on Jesus' death for sins on Earth and somehow hear about it or would Jesus have to die for them for their sins on their planet. This quickly becomes bizarre especially if there are many intelligent races and that the Bible doesn't mention anything clearly about this. However it will be interesting to see what the atmosphere of planets will be life when we get a chance to examine the atmospheres of planets that are terrestrial and maybe closer in mass to the earth that are in the habitable zone of their star. This shouldn't be too much longer in coming especially with many tentative results from the Kepler mission waiting for further processing.
On March 19, 2008 it was announced that methane or natural gas had been discovered for the first time in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet or in a planet orbiting a star other than our sun. This star is called HD 189733 and is in the constellation Vulpecula or the little fox and is about 63 light years from our earth and solar system. The planet is called HD 189733b meaning it is the second object discovered after the star being the first object in this stellar system. Methane is the simplest possible organic molecule and consists of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms and it can be produced by both organic sources such as cows and termites or inorganic means such as through volcanoes and also by swamps which is probably a decay or dead plants with bacteria. The methane in the atmosphere in the atmosphere of this extrasolar planet is unlikely to be produced by any organic or living source as it is much too hot there. The temperature would be about 900 degrees Celcius or about 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. This is far above the range at which almost any known earth life even bacteria could survive and is at or above the melting point of some metals. This is because the planet HD 189733b is much closer to its star that I believe is somewhat similiar to our sun than our innermost planet Mercury is to our sun with this extrasolar planet having an orbital period of only about 2 days compared to Mercury's period of revolution or year of about 88 days. Also this planet is similiar to Jupiter although much hotter and is a gas giant with no solid surface. The presence of methane was possible to be detected in this planet because it regularly transits or goes in front of its parent star as seen from Earth and so the star's light can be to shine through the edge of the planet's atmosphere and some of the component molecules of this planet's atmosphere can be determined from the molecular spectral lines in this light from the star interferred with by the planet's atmosphere. In a similiar way the presence of water has already been detected in the atmosphere of this planet. Although quite rare some of the components of the atmosphere of the planet Venus can be or have been determined from its transits across the surface of our sun in the past. Although the molecules water and methane in this case would not be produced by or affected by life of any kind due to the extremely hot temperature of this planet HD 189733b, the existence of their presence in a planet around another star indicates that these elements are fairly common in planets in our galaxy at least as they are also found in the existence in especially the gas giant planets of our solar system. Hopefully scientists will soon be able to detect more earthlike planets with masses and temperatures that could support life and if these planets also transit their parent star we will be able to quite possibly detect any significant amounts of methane or water molecules or other molecules that could indicate the presence of life such as molecular oxygen O2 in their atmospheres. In such cases more serious examination could be conducted to see if these molecules are produced by organic or living systems or sources which would be a profound and far reaching discovery but which is not contrary to anything in the Bible even literally interpreted unless they were intelligent beings such as humanoid but we still have a long way to go to get even close to this but the present Corot mission or the upcoming Kepler mission should provide progress. These missions can both detect earthlike extrasolar planets down to 2 or less earth masses that transit their parent stars.
On November 23, 2008 I heard from www.space.com that astronomers have discovered Carbon Dioxide CO2 for the first time in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet. Although this is quite significant and proves that astronomers can detect Carbon Dioxide at the distance of extrasolar planets in this case in the atmosphere of the planet HD 189733b which is about 65 light years from here. However in this case there is little possibility of life occuring on this planet because HD 189733 is a so-called hot jupiter without a solid surface and that is too close to its parent star to have cool enough temperatures to support life. However this could indicate that Carbon Dioxide occurs quite readily in extrasolar planets and could also occur quite readily in the atmospheres of terrestrial planets. However if there were astronomers on other nearby planets they could determine that our solar system has two planets that could support life neither of which is Earth if they used the prevalence of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere as the main guide to the search for life. Both Venus and Mars have atmosphers of mostly Carbon Dioxide but Venus is much too hot for life as we know it and Mars is a little too cold and Mars also has an atmosphere that is too thin to support much life. If astronomers on earth are using carbon dioxide as a guide in the search for extraterrestrial life they should also look for planets with solid surfaces or terrestrial planets and that would have temperatures at which liquid water could exist freely as on earth. As Earth proves plants of similiar life do not need a great proportion of the atmosphere to survive or even thrive as Carbon Dioxide makes up less than 1 % of the atmosphere on earth and planets or similiar Carbon Dioxide based life could probably survive or even thrive on extrasolar planets with similiar atmospheres if other conditions were right. As the astronomers obtain better equipment and abilities at detection they should be able to detect lower mass planets of other stars and to detect atmospheric constituents including Carbon Dioxide in the atmospheres of some of these planets. Again I think as a Bible believing Christian who is interested in science that it is possible that bacteria or even planet or animal life or their equivalent could or might be detected on planets or other stars but for theological and other reasons not humanoid or other intelligent life. The lack of clear evidence from extraterrestrial intelligent life from projects like SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) on a scientific level also lends support to the probable lack of intelligent life at least in other parts of our galaxy.
In early December 2010 there was a news conference by Nasa with much advance fanfare. There was much speculation in advance what the announcement could be with many people thinking it could be an announcement by Nasa that they had finally found definite evidence of extraterrestrial life. This was not to be. Instead the announcement was about a very exotic microbe in a very salty lake called Mono Lake in California, USA. This lake has extremely high levels or arsenic in it that would be toxic to humans and most life including many microbes. However after close examination the team under an astro-biology department of Nasa led by scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon found a microbe, GFAJ-1, that not only survives in the high arsenic levels of this lake but also absorbs arsenic into its system. This includes its ability to replace phosphorus in the outer rungs of its DNA that is the form of phosphate with arsenic in the form of arsenate. (Arsenic is just below phosphorus in the periodic table of chemical elements and has very similiar chemistry. This also results in it being more easily taken into the body and its destructiveness as a poison.) In the samples of these microbes it was found that some of them after making the solution more saturated with arsenic had 98% arsenic and only 2% phosphorus in the part of DNA that usually occupied by phorsphorus. This microbe normally exists in a more normal environment and has only phosphorus in its DNA but in this extremely arsenic saturated environment in Mono Lake it is still able to cope fairly well in the arsenic containing water but not quite as well as when the DNA only contains phosphorus in a more normal environment. There is not much phosphorus in this lake so this microbe is able to cope in and absorb the arsenic to replace the phosphorus in this exotic environment. As a Bible believing Christian I believe God's design in creation is able to explain this microbe and its properties just as well as evolution. However, even on a creation basis the existence of this microbe with these properties could mean that it will be easier to find life on other worlds as it would allow life to cope in some extreme environments, arsenic rich, that normal life would have great difficulty doing. This should be an encouragement to astronomers or other scientists to look for forms of life with substituted elements with similiar elements in their DNA such as elements in the same column of the periodic table. However these elements are generally not as common as those usually used in DNA and don't have as desirable properties for life so life elsewhere in the universe is not likely to be as common in these forms but it is a more real possibility with this arsenic variation of DNA in this microbe. Even if this microbe does point to the existence of other life on other worlds with different DNA or totally different chemistry this other life would most likely be just microbes or their equivalent as it would be much more difficult to have large scale life such as plants or animals or even humanoid intelligent life based on chemistry other than that in normal DNA using carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and phosphorus. From a biblical view there is also the problem of what God would do with intelligent life if they also fell into sin of whether Jesus the Son of God would somehow have to go and die for their sins on their planet or moon or whether God through an angel, a direct revelation from God such as to the prophets of Israel or other means would tell beings there of Jesus' death for sins on our planet Earth. Either way presents a big problem theologically as well as the fact that nothing like this is clearly mentioned in the Bible.
As of June 2008 the only earth like planet in both mass and temperature is one called Gliese 581 c. It has about 5 times the mass of earth and a distance that would result in a temperature of from 0 to 40 degrees celsius. Although this would provide gravitation about twice as great as earth this planet could still support some type of life at least some plants or animals not to mention bacteria. However it might be difficult for humans to live there with this substantial bacteria not to mention for us or hypothetical intelligent life to escape to space from the surface of this planet as this is difficult enough with Earth's gravity. This planet's gravity would probably mean it was a signicant atmosphere but not too much to obscure a solid surface with extra hydrogen and helium like Jupiter and Saturn in our solar system and with many of the extrasolar planets. This planet is around a star called a red dwarf which is much fainter than out sun and much cooler and smaller but fortunately this planet has a year of only around 20 days which is only about a quarter of the year of Mercury the closest planet to our sun so this planet ends up having a tolerable or benign temperature. The only possible problem this could cause it that it might be more susceptible to flares or ejections of material from its parent star or radiation than earth is from our sun. Unfortunately this planet Gliese 581 c does not transit or go in front of its parent star as seen from earth so we cannot determine its size or density or the composition of its atmosphere or possible ocean until we are able to see it directly which could be in a decade or two if effort is made to develop a better detector in space. This star and planet are around 20 light years away so it is feasible to visit it from earth with leading edge technology rockets like nuclear rockets if it can be determined is has interesting life or would be a suitable second home for humans.
Some time after the discovery of Gliese 581 c and the announcement of its original orbital period of about 20 days which could have brought it within the habitable zone of its parent star there was a significant revision in its distance from its parent star and its orbital period. This also affects the likely temperature for this planet and its prospects for hosting possible life or at least liquid water. The orbital period of Gliese 581 c is now thought to be somewhat less than 13 days which probably means that it would be too close to its parent star to support any life as we know it even though its parent star is a red dwarf and much less massive and much fainter than our own sun. However on April 21, 2009 it was announced on Extrasolar Encyclopedia that two new planets orbit this star both less than 10 earth masses and so quite possibly at least mostly rocky planets like our own earth. One planet is only 1.9 earth masses but is definitely too close to this star to support life as we know it. However another new planet of this star Gliese 581 d has an average distance of 0.22 AU or astronomical units or about 1/5 the distance of our earth from the sun. This would be about 20,000,000 miles since our own earth has an average distance of just over 90,000,000 miles from the sun. This gives Gliese 581d an orbital period or year of 66 days. This would be definitely too close to our sun or another sun like star but one has to keep in mind that Gliese 581 is a much fainter and cooler red dwarf star. This planet Gliese 581 d could according to accounts I have heard on the BBC and www.space.com host liquid water. However one thing I didn't see them or anyone else mention from the data on The Extrasolar Encyclopedia is that this planet has a very high eccentricity or eliptical nature of its orbit. The figure is 0.38 for this planet. By comparison 0.0 would be a perfect circle and 1.0 would be a straight line with no width to its orbit. The implication of this is that, even though its average temperature could support liquid water and other conditions suitable to life as we know it, this planet would have very extreme fluctuations of temperature during its year as it would probably be brought at its nearest point to its parent star to a point that would be too hot for life and perhaps even start to boil the water and at its farthest point it might be too far and too cold to support life. Water could even start to freeze at its farthest point from its parent star. However there are some bacteria on earth that could probably survive quite well even in these extremes of temperature if there was a suitable atmosphere. Since this planet does not transit its parent star we will have to wait until telescope technology improves enough so this planet can be seen directly and the spectra from its light can be analyzed for chemical components and temperature. However now, it is probably the planet that we know that is most suitable to earthlike life. The Europeans are in the serious planning stages now for a next generation telescope on earth that would be able to directly detect and analyze the chemistry of planets such as this but even if everything goes smoothly this would still be several years off before it could begin operations and gather data about this or other extrasolar planets.
In late September it was announced that the most earth-like planet yet had been discovered. Like some of the other promising candidates that have been announced including that I have mentioned on this web site this planet orbits the star Gliese 581. The previous promising planet Gliese 581 c is now thought to be on the inner edge of this star's habitable zone where liquid water and life could exist and Gliese 581 c is probably too hot to support life. The most recent candidate for life in this system Gliese 581 d is on the outer edge of this star's habitable zone and could only support life if it has a significant greenhouse effect from its atmosphere which it could well have but this is not proven. Gliese 581 d is about 30,000,000 kilometers from its star and is seven or eight times the mass of earth and has a year of about 67 days. Gliese 581 g which is one of the planets just discovered around the star Gliese 581 is 3 to 4 earth masses and has a year of about 37 days and its average distance from its parent star is about 22,000,000 kilometres. The star Gliese 581 is a red dwarf and is less massive and much fainter than our sun so the habitable zone is much closer to the star than is the case in our solar system. As a result Gliese 581 g probably has one side facing the star all the time and one side facing away and in darkness. Therefore the most promising area for looking for like would be a zone around the edge of the planet on the day night boundary. Average temperatures on Gliese 581 g are between minus 31 to minus 12 degrees Celsius but at times and in places would be above the freezing point of water and could support liquid water and possibly life. As a Bible believing Christian I think this would be part of God's wisdom, power and work of beauty if there is life beyond earth although it hasn't been found yet but I don't think intelligent life will be found beyond earth other than God, Jesus, angels and demons because of theological problems such as whether they sinned and need a Saviour and would require Jesus to go there to die for their sins or have the merit of his death on the cross here on earth have value against their sins on that place too.
Due to the importance of Gliese 581 g or any other announcement of habitable planets, another team of extrasolar planet hunters led by Michael Mayor reexamined the data that was the basis of the discovery of Gliese 581 g. Although this review of the data led to the confirmation of planets b, c, d and e around Gliese 581, it led to the refuting of the existence of planet Gliese 581 g (and f). This was based on further data points that weren't incorporated in the original announcement by the discover Steven Vogt. However there is still some doubt as to this refutation as other data used in the original discovery announcement by Steven Vogt was not incorporated in Michael Mayor's analysis or announcement and Mr. Mayor so far has not published his data or analysis in a journal or shared them publicly otherwise while Mr. Vogt has. Until Mr. Mayor does this or better yet some other astronomer includes all the data of both Mr. Mayor and Mr. Vogt and published it in a journal things are still up in the air about the existence of Gliese 581 g. In Mr. Mayor's data and analysis the data supposed to be supporting the existence of Gliese 581 g was not much above the background noise or random data so its existence couldn't be conclusively stated. Unfortunately we will now have to wait for either the verification of Mr. Vogt's claim for Gliese 581 g or until the discovery and announcement and verification of some other habitable extrasolar planet probably around some other star that might be quite a bit further away from earth. However this shouldn't take too long with Kepler and other devices actively looking for such planets.
On November 13, 2008 there was announced and shown the photographs of 4 claimed planets of other stars. There were three planets around the star HR8799 which is about 130 light years away and 1 planet around the bright star Fomalhaut which is only about 25 light years away and one of the brightest stars as seen from earth. These planets were all between 3 and 10 times the mass of Jupiter in our solar system and were at significant distances from their parent stars. Fomalhaut was also at the inner edge of a disc of debris like the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune in our solar system. Although it would be virtually impossible for any of these planets to support life because they are too distant from their parent stars and too cold, the promise of this technique being used for fainter planets closer to their parent stars in the near future provides hope that it will increasingly detect more earthlike worlds. These 4 planets would also be gas giants with no solid surfaces. This technique effectively blots out the parent stars from the images so the planets can show up and not be lost in the glare of the parent stars. A main advantage of this technique besides giving more definite proof of the existence of the planets is that it allows astronomers to examine the light through its spectrum to determine the composition of the atmosphere and surface of these planets including to determine whether molecules like water, molecular oxygen or chlorophyl are present there that could indicate at least earth-like life. However life on other planets could still exist and be very different from earthlike like such as being based on some other material than carbon such as sulfur or silicon or using some other molecules for drinking and respiration that water and oxygen or carbon dioxide. However this breakthrough in directly photographing planets of other stars gives some assurance we are that much nearer when we can get images of planets that have masses and temperatures similiar to earth and could theoretically support life. As a Christian I believe it is possible other earthlike world will be found even with life up to the equivalent or plants and animals but I doubt intelligent life will be found that would have spirits as there would then be concerns about whether they sinned and whether they would need a Saviour and why God didn't tell us about them in the Bible etc.
In June 2008 European astronomers announced they had discovered a solar systm around another star with 3 planets comparable to the mass of earth with about 4, 7 and 9 times the mass of earth. These type of planets are now called superearths because they are more massive and probably bigger than earth but should still be similiar to earth in having solid surfaces or perhaps a solid surface partly or completely covered by a small depth of water or other liquid like earth with its oceans and seas rivers and lakes. Although all three of these planets from their masses could otherwise support at least some type of life, unfortunately they are much too close to their star which is like the earth but perhaps a bit cooler and fainter with the farthest of these planets have a year of around 20 days which would probably give a temperature of above 1000 degrees Fahrenheit or around 700 degrees Celsius. The other planets in this system including the one with about 4 solar masses are even closer to their parent star and hotter so they would probably be incapable of supporting life even bacteria as these temperatures would probably break apart the DNA or any similiar molecule that might be used as the basis for life on these planets. These planets orbit a star called HD 40307 and are called 40307 b, c, and d. I think this planet is around 40 or 50 light years away. This information is based on data in the Extrasolar Encyclopedia at http://exoplanet.eu. I think in May there was found another superearth around a star called MOA-2007-BLG-192-L that has a mass of 3.3 earth masses. Although this is becoming a very interesting mass in view of supporting earth-like life unfortunately I believe this planet is also much too close to its parent star to be able to support any life. Although this would be the case if this planet was orbiting a star like our sun it is actually orbiting a brown dwarf that is a failed star between a planet and a star. Therefore this planet is probably actually too cold to support life. However the fact that numbers of these superearths are being found as well as the recent announcement by the European planet hunting team that announced the 3 superearth system are refining data and preparing it for publication of another 50 or so other superearths with years up to about 50 days means there could soon be announcements of other superearths that would have cooler and more benign temperatures and more promising locations for extraterrestrial life.
One ongoing area of actual discovery bearing on the search for extraterrestrial life is the continuing detection of exotic microbes or bacteria. A most recent most exotic microbe is one that is completely dependent on radioactivity for energy and not even indirectly on the energy of the sun that occurs I think about 2 miles below the surface of Earth. This bacteria is based on sulfur compounds for its breathing or nutrients. Other exotic bacteria is based on methane or other sulfur compounds, consume organic compounds or other elements or compounds as well as water, oxygen or carbon dioxide. Other exotic environments include extreme pressure either in rock or at the bottom of the ocean, extremes of hot or cold temperature, extreme acidic or alkaline (basic) or wet or dry environments. Inclusion of any of these factors to more extreme extents in environments that earthly at least microscopic life is able to survive in greatly enhances the possible locations even in our solar system in which life even as we know it could survive. It is possible although more unlikely that larger scale life including similiar in scale to humans could exist and survive based on some of these extreme microbes although not likely in our solar system from what we know of it. If we do eventually discover large scale life and even ecosystems that can survive what we regard as extreme environments on planets of other stars or extra solar planets one can make the case just as well to state that they have been created that way by the God of the Bible as to say they evolved randomnly on that planet.
As a Christian who has some knowledge of science especially astronomy, I believe there could well be at least bacterial life in the universe beyond Earth and it may have already been discovered on Mars with the discovery of Methane and Ammonia in its atmosphere and it is likely that in the planets around other stars there will be terrestrial planets more conducive to life than Mars including having liquid water seas or oceans and Carbon Dioxide CO2 atmosphere and perhaps even oxygen but I think if this is the case it will be by God's creation not evolution. There could even be multi-celled or large plants or animals on other planets or other stars but I think humanoid or intelligent life with spirits or hearts won't be found on other planets since there would then be the issue of whether they sinned or not and if so that they would need a saviour or redeemer requiring an incarnation of God to die for their sins as happened for the human race on Earth with God the Son taking upon Himself human body and nature through the virgin birth in the person of Jesus Christ. This would be absurd and impractical if Jesus had to go and die many times for many intelligent races in God's image with spirits and is a strong argument against the possibility of ever finding humanoid life on planets of other stars. There is definitely intelligent extraterrestrial life that is also mentioned in the Bible but this is the heavenly host that are holy angels and fallen angels or demons or evil spirits. Especially the evil angels that bring attention to themselves not to God or His Son Jesus could likely be the aliens and associated with UFOs that can't be explained by natural phenomena or human aircraft or balloons or spacecraft. Their is also some Biblical basis for saying this including Jesus saying there will be signs in the heavens in the tribulation (and perhaps the time leading up to it) such as from about the time Israel became a nation in 1947 or 1948 which was about the time of the Roswell incident in New Mexico in United States which happened in 1947. According to the www.spiraloflife.com author the Nazi preoccupation with the occult and possible offering the Jews and others that they slaughtered as an offering to Lucifer or the devil or Satan in World War 2 could have provided an opening into this world for increased demonic activity that started shortly after World War 2 and continues to increase. However, although these aliens and UFOs appear to be extraterrestrial, their core nature including the lack of detection of these UFOs as coming from deep space and as far as I know no significant sighting of aliens or UFOs or alien technology by astronauts or robotic space vehicles on the moon, Mars or elsewhere in the solar system perhaps even including from the space station or space shuttle or Earth orbit tends to support the idea that these aliens are from another dimension parallel to ours in the vicinity or the Earth and its atmosphere. This alien and UFO phenomena will probably increase until and through the tribulation or 70th week of Daniel partly to give a non-biblical explanation for the rapture or catching up of all born of the Holy Spirit Christians to heaven at the end of the Church Dispensation and just before the tribulaton or 70th week of Daniel starts.
The current aliens or extraterrestrials although it would probably be better to call them as from an extra dimension that exists side by side with our familiar dimensions of times and space are in many way similiar if not identical to the sons of God mentioned in Genesis 6. In the main other references to sons of God in the Old Testament these sons of God are almost always referring to angels, both holy and unholy as in Job 38, 1 and 2 and hardly if at all to humans. To say that these sons of God in Genesis 6 aren't angels because angels aren't supposed to have sex with humans as in Matthew 22 is to assume also that demons or fallen angels want to only do what is honouring to God which is probably an overly optimistic and invalid assumption. Anyway these sons of God clearly has sex with human women, the daughters of men, and this resulted in mighty men, men of renown (fame or ferocious reputation). This is also similiar to the many well documented "alien abductions" which often involve the aliens having sex with humans and/or performing operations involving the reproductive areas presumably to gain more information or eggs or sperm for more reproduction of aliens with humans to produced mixed offspring such as the men of renown before the flood but now called "hybrids". Whether these demon- human offspring in the days of Noah were the same as the giants or just another hideous race is not too clear from the text in Genesis 6. Anyway Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24 that the last days the days of (leading up to) the coming of the Son of man would be as the days of Noah mentioning in particular marrying and giving in marriage which could include a reference to the sons of God marrying human women as well as normal marriages with human men and human women. Perhaps the adoption of legislation in places like Canada, the Netherlands, and Spain allowing marriage between homosexuals or lesbians will make it easier in the near future when the aliens or fallen angels openly manifest themselves to have the definition of marriage extended to include that between humans and aliens (demons) and for those relationships to be viewed as legal and in some senses acceptable for society especially in the soon coming tribulation.
When the people of Judah or southern Israel including Jerusalem worshipped the host of heaven on the rooftops, part of the meaning is of the physical planets and bright physical or natural stars but then as now when people worship these physical planets or stars there could come to be evil spirits, demons or fallen angels associated with these objects that take some of the worship people give to these physical objects and these spirits would seek to order the events in the lives of these people involved in astrology to look like these planets or stars have influence in these people's lives. These evil spirits or fallen angels or aliens or extraterrestrials or UFOs as the spiritual host of heaven could also actually be in the vicinity in time and space of these planets or stars physical host of heaven or even seek to bring back visions to people in astrology, or false mystical religions including the New Age Movement of some of the space time environment associated with the particular planet or star physical host of heaven the false mystical or New Age astrology devotee is worshipping. This hypothesis is strengthened with the mention of other gods in the same verse in this warning with the other gods would also be represented by demons or evil spirits or fallen angels or aliens or UFOs that could be associated with the physical or spiritual host of heaven. Tophet was a place probably a grove used in the worship of the false god Molech in the Valley of Hinnon to the south of Jerusalem. This prophesy was fulfilled when Israel's enemies the Babyolonians under their king Nebuchadnezzar came shortly after and destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple there with fire in Jeremiah 52. Again, although these fallen angels in Old Testament times could have been extraterrestrial, it is just as likely they also know much about these other star systems and just mimic that they come from there but actually come from another dimension or spiritual dimension in the vicinity of Earth. The scripture reference associating the stars of planets physical heavenly host with the spiritual heavenly host and other gods or fallen angels, demons or evil spirits that could also be aliens or UFOs from Jeremiah 19 is as follows:
And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled (by fire) as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offering unto other gods. Jeremiah 19:13
There are further references to the people of Judah worshipping celestial gods associated with astronomical objects in Jeremiah 29 and Zephaniah 1. This would be talking about the same thing as in Jeremiah 19. These other verses could also be associated with signs in the heavens such as aliens or UFOs at that time from the demons behind people worshipping celestial gods associated with astronomical objects such as the sun, moon, planets or stars. These actions were condemned by God then which he called worshipping the host of heaven as it would be now through movements such as the New Age movement but people involved in such activity can still be saved if they/you ask God's forgiveness for these things through the Lord Jesus Christ as seek to start a new life in the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Bible especially the New TEstament. The scripture references from Jeremiah 29 and Zephaniah 1 of these other instances of the people of Judah worshipping celestial deities is as follows:
And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink-offerings unto other gods, to provoke me unto anger. Jeremiah 32:29
And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and they that worship and swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham (Molech); Zephaniah 1:5
For more information, comments, questions or advice contact Doug Currie at Contact Spirit and Truth MinistriesExtraterrestrial Life Part 1c