Humans have always wondered if we are alone in this vast universe we call home and the discovery of Earth-like planets that are some of the best places to look to answer that question.
While it may seem as simple as pointing a large telescope into the void of space to find one of these planets, it's certainly not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it may be much harder than researchers have anticipated. According to a new study out of Cornell University, researchers lay out evidence that next-generation telescopes that will be used to observe exo-planets may confuse planets that are Earth-like with other types of planets that are similar and reside in the same solar system.
Dmitry Savransky, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and co-author on the new study published in The Astrophysical Journal, explains, "Once we have the capability of imaging Earth-like planets, we're actually going to have to worry about confusing them with completely different types of planets. The future telescopes that will enable these observations will be so huge, expensive, and difficult to build and launch that we can't afford to waste a single second of time on them, which is why it is so important to think through all of these potential issues ahead of time."
Savransky and his colleagues used a model of our solar system to conduct their experiment. According to the results indicated in the study, the team of researchers found 21 cases within our solar system that a planet had the same brightness and separation as another planet.
Additionally, the researchers found that an Earth-like planet could be confused as a Mercury-like planet in 36% of randomly generated solar systems. On top of that, an Earth-like planet could be mistaken for a Mars-like planet 43% of the time in randomly generated solar system models. Venus was 72% of the time.
While those statistics are certainly disheartening, the researchers found that gas-giant planets were not mistaken as Earth-like, with the percent occurrence only being 1-4%. For more information on this story, check out this link here.
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