Both the Bible and the Qur'an teach that the Living God created the whole universe to be conducive to the universal evolution of life.
Recent astrophysical studies discover ever more evidence of the truth of this Biblical and Qur'anic view.
Space may be vast, but it isn't that lonely. New research indicates the Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets like ours, circling stars just like our sun.
Astronomers calculate that in our galaxy alone there are at least 8-9 billion stars like our sun with Earth-sized planets that are 'not too hot or not too cold'.
They calculated that 22 percent of stars like our sun have planets similar to Earth in size and temperature. Study co-author Geoff Marcy says that means billions of places for life to develop.
The Zabur of David says, "Your kingdom is a kingdom of all worlds; and Your dominion is for all generations." (Zabur-Psalms 145:13); and the Qur'an says, "We have not sent you but as a blessing for all the worlds." (Al-Anbiya 21:107).
Muslim commentators say this refers to the 18.000 inhabitable worlds created by Allah. Our world is but one of them. (Mir'at-e-Kainat, vol.1, p.77)
"It's been less than 20 years since the discovery of the first extrasolar planet around a normal star. Since then, we have learned that most stars have planets of some size orbiting them, and that Earth-size planets are relatively common in close-in orbits that are too hot for life," said Andrew Howard, from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii.
"Planets like our Earth are relatively common throughout the Milky Way Galaxy."
The astronomers will publish their analysis and findings this week in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
NASA launched the Kepler space telescope in 2009 to look for planets outside the solar system that cross in front of, or transit, their stars, which causes a slight diminution -- about one hundredth of 1 percent -- in the star's brightness.
From among the 150,000 stars photographed every 30 minutes for four years, NASA's Kepler team reported more than 3,000 planet candidates.
Many of these are much larger than Earth -- ranging from large planets with thick atmospheres, like Neptune, to gas giants like Jupiter -- or in orbits so close to their stars that they are roasted.
To sort them out, Petigura and his colleagues are using the Keck telescopes in Hawaii to obtain spectra of as many stars as possible. This will help them determine each star's true brightness and calculate the diameter of each transiting planet, with an emphasis on Earth-diameter planets.
Independently, Petigura, Howard and Marcy focused on the 42,000 stars that are like the sun or slightly cooler and smaller, and found 603 candidate planets orbiting them.
The astronomers estimate that 22 percent of all sun-like stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in their habitable zones.
"The primary goal of the Kepler mission was to answer the question, 'When you look up in the night sky, what fraction of the stars that you see have Earth-size planets at lukewarm temperatures so that water would not be frozen into ice or vaporized into steam, but remain a liquid, because liquid water is now understood to be the prerequisite for life?'" Marcy said.
All of the potentially habitable planets found in the team's survey are around K stars, which are cooler and slightly smaller than the sun. But the researchers' analysis shows that the result for K stars can be extrapolated to G stars like our sun. Had the Kepler space telescope survived for an extended mission, it would have obtained enough data to directly detect a handful of Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of G-type stars.
"If the stars in the Kepler field are representative of stars in the solar neighborhood, ... then the nearest (Earth-size) planet is expected to orbit a star that is less than 12 light-years from Earth and can be seen by the unaided eye," the researchers wrote in their paper.
Each new discovery in astronomy yields new evidence of God's wisdom and power. As the Qur'an says, "Verily in the heavens and on the earth are signs for those who believe." (45:3)
And prophet David says, "The heavens declare the glory of God. The universe proclaims God's handiwork." (Zabur-Psalms 19:2)
Rabbi Allen S. Maller retired after serving for 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. His web site is rabbimaller.com.
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