Earth’s Doppelganger

One of the messages that environmentalists have been using for years to motivate people to action is, “We only have one planet.” That’s still true, of course, but researchers just found a planet that could be a lot like ours.

In a letter in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, the same team that found the first planet outside of our solar system way back in 1995, led by Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, looked deep into space and saw a globe slightly larger than our own.

A Reuters article explains the newly discovered sphere’s earth-like characteristics:

"Its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky, like our Earth, or covered with oceans," Udry said in a telephone interview.

But don’t start packing your bags. It’s going to take a while before astronomers can even see if the planet is habitable:

Future missions, perhaps in 20 to 30 years, may be able to block the light from the star and take a spectrographic image of the planets. The color of the light coming from the planet can give hints of whether water, or perhaps large amounts of plant life, exist there.

Or even animal life? If only we had access to the starship Enterprise’s transporter beam, we could ask Scotty to send us there and take a look.