Earth really IS special: None of the 700 million trillion planets in our known universe are similar to our own, study finds
- ‘Copernican principle’ states Earth doesn’t hold a privileged position
- The latest study challenges this belief by modelling the known universe
- None of the known 700 quintillion possible planets look like Earth
- Earth’s young age and position within the Milky Way makes it unique
There are believed to be 700 million trillion terrestrial planets in the known universe.
Scientists have long believed that among them are worlds similar to our own.
This is known as the ‘Copernican principle’, which states that our planet doesn’t hold a privileged position in the cosmos.
Now, a new study has turned that principle on its head by suggesting that Earth may well be one of a kind.
Astronomer Erik Zackrisson from Uppsala University in Sweden has been using computer simulations to model all of the terrestrial planets likely to exist in the universe.
According to an in-depth report in Scientific American, his computer model created a miniature digital copy of the early universe.
He then inputed all the exoplanet data they had from probes such as Kepler, and modelled what would happen to these planets given the known laws of physics.
The team discovered that if you bring the model forward 13.8 billion, none of the known 700 quintillion possible planets look like Earth.
This is because most were far older, which led them to believe that Earth’s relatively young age and position within the Milky Way makes it unique.
The results have been published to the preprint server arXiv and submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.
‘It’s kind of mind-boggling that we’re actually at a point where we can begin to do this,’ co-author Andrew Benson from the Carnegie Observatories in California told Scientific American.
‘It’s certainly the case that there are a lot of uncertainties in a calculation like this. Our knowledge of all of these pieces is imperfect.’
There are some drawbacks to the model. For instance, the team had to guess how planets might form around stars with fewer heavy elements.
But despite these concerns, they say the conclusion is accurate.
According to Scientific American, ‘the researchers conclude that Earth stands as a mild violation of the Copernican principle’.
It follows research last year, which found that Earth
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