SPACE: Another Earth? "It could happen anytime now"

Are we on the verge of finding another Earth?
According to new reports, maybe.
The traditional methods for detecting distant planets are becoming more refined, scientists say, and this reality is making the possibility of ferreting out an Earth-like rock in the distant cosmos a very real possibility.

The Daily Galaxy reports:

Until recently, this "radial velocity" method has only been sensitive enough to pick up planets far more massive than Earth, but improvements now make the discovery of a second Earth highly likely, said Dave Latham, a co-author on the paper at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"It could happen almost any time now. We have the technological capability to identify Earth-like planets around the smallest stars even now," he said.

As years progress, scientists expect planetary detection technology will continue to improve -- promising news for a science that a few years ago could only detect Jupiter-sized (or larger) planetary masses.

Of course, when speaking of habitable planets mass is only one piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, scientists say, when determining whether or not these extra-solar bodies are habitable many other factors must be considered including planetary orbits and the magnitude of local stars.

The report continues:

Tinney thinks that “finding a planet of Earth mass is probably a only couple of years away. But…”—and he emphasizes the “but,” pausing for a moment—“there’s always a ‘but.’” As he explains, all of the things they are finding of very low mass are moving in very short orbital periods, which means that they are orbiting close to their parent stars. So although there they are like Earth in terms of their mass and size, these planets are very unlike the Earth in terms of their orbit. “To find an Earth-mass planet in an Earth-like orbit is just not going to happen with the Doppler technique,” [Chris] Tinney states. It is simply beyond the technology currently developed. Essentially, it would mean that they would need to be performing measurements 100 times better than any technology is capable of doing.

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