With the Big Bang Theory in their pocket and a new array of instruments at their disposal, astronomers are hot on the trail of looking for Earth 2.0; an Earth-mass planet orbiting a Sun-like star at a distance similar to Earth’s orbit. Or, to put it another way, the search is on for a rocky planet in a potentially habitable zone? Will they find another Earth?
I don’t know. I happen to think that we inhabit a unique place in the universe created by God as a dwelling place for mankind. But my faith would not be shaken if Earth 2.0 exists. What is more interesting to me is how many unique and life-giving features of our present Earth keep popping up during our search for life on other planets. What we are discovering is that just finding another “rocky planet in a potentially habitable zone” may not be enough.
A recent issue of EOS magazine, the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, (I am sure most of you have one lying on your coffee table even as we speak) detailed some of the latest developments in the search. One of the foremost efforts is to find a planet with surface water, a life-essential as we understand it.
Now in our own solar system, both Venus and Mars are considered to be in the “habitable zone” based on their distance from the sun. There is one small problem, however, to either of them being “habitable”. Neither planet has liquid water on its surface. Where did the water go, if it was ever there in the first place?
Regarding Mars, the latest theory suggests that the solar wind that interacts with the planets of our solar system would “strip away the atmosphere and water” if they were to exist on Mars. Why? Because Mars does not have a significant magnetic field to protect it from the solar wind. Do you want to guess a planet in our solar system that does have a significant magnetic field protecting its atmosphere and water from the onslaught of the solar wind? My guess is planet Earth.
Let me quote from the EOS article, “The study of the magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind is an important element for understanding how Earth’s magnetic field might have protected our home planet over the millennia.” Did they say “might have protected?” I would argue it has positively protected life on this planet. Who knew something as benign as the earth’s magnetic field could be so important to sustaining life?
Why does Earth have the required magnetic field for life and Mars does not? Is that the random outcome of planetary evolution? I think it is one small piece among hundreds of small pieces of evidence that God has created a planet where life as we know it can thrive. Welcome to your unique and wonderful home, Earth 1.0!