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Earth Day 2017

The American continent at night. NASA

Dorothy once said “There is no place like home.” Scientists have since discovered that there are other worlds out there in the vast depths of space, and some of those exoplanets might just be similar to Earth.

By studying the light of stars, scientists can detect a dimming effect of distant planets as they pass between our world and the distant star. More significantly, shifts in the spectrum of light can provide insight into atmospheric conditions on those worlds.

Among the 32 currently known of exoplanets that is LHS 1140b, a world that, according to astronomers working with the Mearth  project, is approximately 40 times the size of Earth with around 6.6 times the mass. It is unlikely to be a world that humans will ever call home, since a man weighing 175 pounds on Earth would weigh in at 525 pounds on LHS 1140b, but it is a significant step in the exploration of exoplanets and has caught the interest of astronomers, who are looking forward to studying the planet more closely when the James Webb Space Telescope is launched in October of next year.

For now it is one of a growing number of reasons to look up to the night sky and ask: Is there any place like home?

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