Science fiction portrays our Milky Way Galaxy as filled with habitable planets populated by advanced civilizations engaged in interstellar trade and conflict. Back in our real universe, Earth-like planets and alien life have proved elusive. Has science fiction led us astray? NASA has launched a space-borne telescope, Kepler, dedicated to discovering the first Earth-like worlds around other stars. The first results are startling and profound. How common are worlds that are suitable for life? What properties make a planet livable? Can we estimate the occurrence of life in the universe, especially intelligent life? New telescopic and biological observations are providing the first answers to these questions. And new techniques are emerging to provide those answers.



Astronomy, Science


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