How long before we find a habitable planet? Scientists say 2 years

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

We already know there could be billions of habitable planets drifting around in the Milky Way, and now scientists are saying it may not be too much longer until we find one.

A NASA scientist says an "alien Earth" is out there and could even be among the 2,300 planets scientists have already identified and have eyed for further study. If the current schedule holds, NASA researcher Shawn Domagal-Goldman says we should find a planet capable of sustaining life within two years.

"I believe [the] Kepler [Space Telescope] will find a 'Goldilocks planet' within the next two years," Domagal-Goldman said, per "We'll be able to point at a specific star in the night sky and say, 'There it is--a planet that could support life!'"

Scientists have developed some new techniques that should help with the search, including transit spectroscopy, to measure the starlight bouncing from the atmosphere of a planet. By studying that data, scientists can determine the basic composition of a planet's atmosphere.

"The reflected light of an exoplanet tells its story," NASA Kepler scientist Doug Hudgins said. "With better detectors and instruments designed to block the glare of the parent stars, these next-generation telescopes could not only find a Goldilocks planet, but also tell us what its atmosphere is made of, what sort of cloud cover graces its skies and maybe even what the surface is like—whether oceans cover part of the globe, how much land there is, and so on."

What do you think? Should we start packing now for full-scale colonization?