It is a bit bigger and somewhat colder, but a planet circling a star 500 light-years away is otherwise the closest match of our home world discovered so far, astronomers announced on Thursday.
This comes from Scientists Find an ‘Earth Twin,’ or Perhaps a Cousin in the New York Times.
Here is something that bothers me in this story, and in some of the pronouncements of astronomer’s in general. The way this is reported, it sounds like they know for sure that what they saw is 1) a planet; 2) of a certain size; 3) orbiting a Sol-like star; 4) orbiting in the ‘habitable zone’ of that star. All of these pronouncements are stated matter-of-fact-like.
Yet what do they really know?
Kepler 186f is the latest planet to be sifted out of the voluminous data collected by Kepler, which kept watch over 150,000 stars, looking for slight drops in brightness when a planet passed in front.
Hmmm… “slight drops in brightness” equals a habitable planet.
I see how that works.
Is this the only possible explanation for a “slight drop in brightness,” no matter how regular it might appear to be?
Apparently this “planet” orbits its star in only 130 days, so presumably every 130 days the scientists observed similar drops in brightness. So… they know for sure that is a planet? Could be, but what if it were something else?
And this star is 500 light years away, so they say. So these slight drops in brightness are something that happened 500 years ago. But who is to say they continue to happen today? There is no way we can observe that data – no one will ever go there to find out, even if we could learn to travel at the speed of light (or faster).
No doubt there are things I don’t understand about this, but it seems pretty thin gruel to build a theory of the universe on. We see light in the universe through various means. We have theories about what that light means. But we have very little way of proving whether our theories are correct or not.
We call the lights in the heavens stars. We can analyze data about the light coming from what we call stars, and we form conclusions as to what those stars are based on observing similar data from the Sun. But we still don’t know for sure what those stars are or what all this data means.
What do we know for sure about the heavens? We know that God made them… whatever they are:
Genesis 1:16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.