When Will We Find Another Earth?

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Feb 3, 2014, 11:15 AM EST

The biggest growth industry in astronomy right now is finding exoplanets; alien worlds orbiting alien stars. This was essentially impossible even 25 years ago, but now better technology and techniques mean a new one is announced several times a week! Usually, these planets are big, more like Jupiter than our own home world. As we get better at searching, though, we’re finding smaller and more familiar planets.

Slate is kicking off a month of articles about Big Questions, and certainly one of the biggest is: When we will find another Earth? And will we ever be able to get a clear picture of it? I tackled this question given what we know and have found so far, and I think the answer may surprise you.

The article is in the Mysteries of the Universe section of Slate, and it’s titled “Terra Nova: When Will We Find Another Earth?” It was fun to write, in no small part because this is one of the most exiting endeavors in science today. And the discoveries are getting achingly close to putting another pale blue dot in our telescopes.