OK, this is officially cool:

For the first time astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is potentially habitable, with Earth-like temperatures, a find researchers described Tuesday as a big step in the search for “life in the universe.”

The planet is just the right size, might have water in liquid form, and in galactic terms is relatively nearby at 120 trillion miles away. But the star it closely orbits, known as a “red dwarf,” is much smaller, dimmer and cooler than our sun.

There’s still a lot that is unknown about the new planet, which could be deemed inhospitable to life once more is known about it. And it’s worth noting that scientists’ requirements for habitability count Mars in that category: a size relatively similar to Earth’s with temperatures that would permit liquid water. However, this is the first outside our solar system that meets those standards.

It’s not a certainty, and at least one big name is saying that just because the conditions may be right doesn’t mean there actually is life basking in that red glow:

“I expect there will be planets like Earth, but whether they have life is another question,” said renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in an interview with The Associated Press in Orlando. “We haven’t been visited by little green men yet.”

I never doubted that this day would come, and I don’t doubt that life beyond Earth will one day be found, maybe in my lifetime, maybe not (whether it will be sentient life or not is another matter, of course). The idea that the God who is Creator would restrict His bringing forth of life to just one planet in the universe has always struck me as extremely unlikely. I can’t wait for the next development.

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