Using Earthshine to Find Planets Similar to Ours

earth viewed from behind moon image

Photo via Les Chatfeild via Flickr CC

By studying how our land and waters reflect light onto the dark side of the moon, scientists think they'll be able to find planets with similar compositions to ours based on the reflections bouncing off of them.Researchers from the University of Melbourne and Princeton University have been studying the Earth's reflection on the moon, a phenomenon known as earthshine. They have been able to analyze how the land and oceans reflect light differently, and hope to use this knowledge to identify planets similar to ours around other stars.

"In the future, astronomers hope to find planets like the Earth around other stars. However these planets will be too small to allow an image to be made of their surface," said [Sally Langford from the University of Melbourne's School of Physics].

"We can use earthshine, together with our knowledge of the Earth's surface to help interpret the physical make up of new planets...If we find Earth sized planets and watch their brightness as they rotate, we will be able to assess properties like the existence of land and oceans."

Scientists are certainly still focused on finding earth-like planets, both to answer the question of if there is other life out there as well as the possibility of an escape route as we let Earth slip closer to inhabitability. This is certainly one interesting way to look for them, even though we still have a whole lot of our own planet left to explore.

Via Eurekalert
More on Earth-like Planets
NASA Kepler Mission: The Question of How Alone We Really Are is About to be Answered
Habitable Planets Available Soon
Further Proof of Life on Mars

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