Does Newly Discovered Planet Point to Life In Outer Space?

It didn’t take long for headlines to go from  “new planet” to “new life.”

“NASA just found a planet almost the size of Earth and it’s in the habitable zone of a star,” announced USA Today.

“Is There Life on TOI 700 e? NASA Discovers a New Planet That Could Be Habitable,” asked an Australian news site.

Why all the excitement? Because of the kind of thinking Sci Tech Daily reported last month: “New Theory Suggests That the Origin of Life on Earth-Like Planets Is Likely Sci Tech Daily”

Peter Pinedo at the Catholic News Agency wanted to find out what the chances of new life were, so he went to a natural place: Christopher Singledecker, the Benedictine College astronomer.

Not only was Shingledecker a member of one of the first teams of scientists to have access to the James Webb Space Telescope, but he spoke on outer space and the origins of life at the Angelicum in Rome last year.

“TOI 700 e is rocky, 95% the size of Earth, and within the distance from its sun where liquid water could occur,” Pinedo wrote, citing NASA. “The planet is the latest discovery made by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a satellite designed to search for exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) that could support life.”

He said Shingledecker warned that the presence of water does not necessarily mean TOI 700 e has life.

“Looking back to our solar system, Mars falls within the sun’s habitable zone, and we know with a high degree of confidence that it did indeed have liquid surface water at one time; nevertheless, all indications are that Mars … does not now or ever has had life,” Shingledecker told Pinedo.

A scientist at the Vatican Observatory pointed out differences between the planet and earth:

  • The new planet’s sun is smaller and cooler, putting out less than a 20th of the sun’s energy.
  • The new planet revolves around the sun every 28 days.
  • The planet may be “tidally locked,” meaning one side is always facing th sun and one facing the other way.

The conclusion of Pinedo’s article is there in its title: “Catholic astronomers: Newly discovered planet a testament to Earth’s ‘startling uniqueness’”

“The discovery of this and other exoplanets are really remarkable achievements that testify to the marvels of God’s creation,” Shingledecker told him. “The more exoplanets we detect, the more startlingly unique we realize Earth really is. Indeed, as far as we know, it is currently the only place anywhere in the universe where life exists.”

Image: Wiki-media commons; public domain.

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Ex Corde Editorial Staff

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Benedictine College’s mission can Transform Culture in America by modeling community in an age of incivility, spreading faith in an age of hopelessness, and committing to scholarship in a “post-truth” era. The Ex Corde Center for Catholic Media creates video and other media content to promote positive messages of faith, hope, and love while providing students with the tools, experiences, and contacts they need to enter the 21st century media world as effective communicators. Learn about the Ex Corde media fellows program.