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Twinkle, Twinkle, Is That Another “Earth” Next to That Star?

Well for one thing there is nothing catchy about the names Kepler-20e and Kepler-20, as far as planets go.

The large planet that revolves around the sun—that would be Earth—originated its name reportedly in the 8th century. It comes from the Anglo-Saxon word erda, which means ground or soil. In Old English the word became eorthe, then erthe in Middle English. The word Earth was first used around 1400. It is the only planet whose name was not derived from Greco-Roman mythology.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

Image via Wikipedia

The planet’s Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f received their names in this century. (weeks ago in fact) These newly discovered planets are similar in size to Earth, and scientists are reporting them to possibly be orbiting a distant sun-like star.

“If the discovery holds up under scrutiny by other scientists, it could be a very big deal. Earth-sized planets are considered critical in the search for life elsewhere in the universe, but until now, scientists said their instruments were not sensitive enough to detect them. ”


The team at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics published their report last week online in the journal Nature. The Earth wannabe planets are too far away to be seen directly, and their imitation sun is about 950 light-years away.

Other fun facts:

“Kepler-20e and f are probably too hot to be friendly to life — one of them circles its sun in just six Earth days, and the other does it in 19. But the simple fact that they’ve been found, say the scientists, is reason to expect that others like them exist.”

“Scientists know, from looking at Earth’s solar system, that rocky worlds like ours are a precious commodity. If a world is too small (think of Mercury or Earth’s moon), any atmosphere will escape into space before life could possibly form. If a world is too large (think of Jupiter or Neptune) it’s likely to be all atmosphere, a giant ball of gas or slush that thickens quickly as you plunge beneath its cloud tops, but probably has no solid surface where living things could thrive.”

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are!

Well in the span of under 20 years we’ve gone from not knowing if any other planets exist in the universe (because the ones we’re well aware of…), to now looking out there at those “diamonds in the sky”, and thinking there are possibly a few more habitable ones out there.


About maggie.

Maggie Barnes is a nonprofit and for profit business content specialist / social media consultant; and social sciences web writer interested in everything from psychology and sexuality, to technology, race, and economics. She is passionate about good communication and information accessibility.


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