”Earth-like planet is virtually next door” read the recent headline in my local newspaper.
Scientists claim to have discovered a planet similar to Earth, orbiting Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our solar system, according to the accompanying article by the Associated Press. They aver that it is the closest potentially habitable planet ever detected outside our solar system—and one possibly reachable by small, unmanned space probes before the end of this century. Fascinating.
But what truly struck me was the fourth paragraph of the article, which was the lead story of the day: “The team of astronomers that announced the discovery did not actually see the planet but deduced its existence indirectly by using telescopes to spot and precisely calculate the gravitational pull on the star by a possible orbiting body…” First, they “did not actually see the planet but deduced its existence…?” Scientists often say they don’t believe in a “man in the sky,” or someone/something that “we can’t see.” But they can deduce the existence of an unseen planet almost 25 trillion miles from Earth?
Moreover, you can’t “precisely calculate” the gravitational pull of a possible body, orbiting or not.
Outside experts praised the finding as “rock-solid” and “thrilling,” the article stated. Lisa Kaltenegger, director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute, stated: “If we needed inspiration to try to reach the next star, now we have it.”
It should be mentioned that, four years ago, a different group of scientists believed they had found a promising planet around Alpha Centauri, a star just a little farther away from Earth than Proxima Centauri. Astronomers later decided that it wasn’t real, wasn’t actually there at all, but was a “ghost signal from the past.”
It would behoove scientists to be more skeptical of their own “knowledge” of certain Heavenly Bodies… and less skeptical of the Intelligent Design that may have put them there.