Editorial: Homing in on possible life in the heavens

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For the first time, astronomers have discovered seven Earth-size planets orbiting a nearby star — and these new worlds could hold life. | Artists impression via Getty Images

Follow @csteditorialsIs there life elsewhere in the universe?

A good bet says, yes, there must be, given the unfathomable number of planets circling an unfathomable number of stars in an unfathomable number of galaxies.

But to actually detect convincing evidence of life elsewhere — never did we consider that possible in our lifetimes. Then again, we are not astrophysicists, for whom 40 light years is a stroll to the neighbors and a faint speck of light can reveal the composition of a planet’s atmosphere.

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Now, as reported Wednesday, scientists have discovered seven Earth-size planets circling a small and relatively close star, each potentially capable of having liquid water and therefore life. Better yet, the scientists say, they should be able to pick up chemical signals, such as oxygen and methane, of living organisms.

The implications of such a discovery would be profound, reordering our sense of place in the universe. We’ll leave the details to philosophers and theologians.

But when scientists begin to hone in on one of the most fundamental questions of human existence — Are we alone? — we would be remiss if we did not at least say, “Wow.”

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