The Concept of “Earth 2″ Is Alternately Frightening And Exhilarating

Astronomers discovered Thursday that somewhere out there, about 1,400 light-years away, is a little exoplanet named Kepler-452b, orbiting around a star that shares a lot of similarities with the sun. What? Let Slate clarify:

Kepler-452b orbits its star at a distance just 5 percent more than Earth orbits the Sun, with a year 385 days long. While the star is similar to the Sun, it’s older, and stars brighten as they age. That means Kepler-452b actually receives more heat from the star than we do from the Sun, so it’s likely warmer than we are.

Note, though, that a couple of billion years ago the star was cooler, pretty much like the Sun is now. That means that a long time ago, 452b was getting the same amount of light and heat we do. Interesting.

Interesting indeed. It seems that this planet could possibly maybe support some form of life. This could possibly be Earth’s backup plan, for when the oceans finally rise to consume the land, long after the polar ice caps melt and that big earthquake the New Yorker wrote about a couple of weeks ago neatly snaps the Pacific Northwest off and casts it into the ocean. Is this exciting? Yes, because the thought of casting aside this giant ball of dirt and all the horrid people that roam its surface is awesome.

The great hope for alien lifeforms and alternate realities is that they’re a marked improvement on humanity and life as we know it. This could be true! But they could also have been studying our every move for billions of years, growing in the same way that we evolved, and waiting for the absolute right moment to hop in their space-Corvettes and zip on over to our house. Or, maybe they’re like humanity, but somehow worse. Take the dregs of humanity, multiply it by 10, and that might equal a fraction of the ire these life forms feel. Is it worth the risk? I’m not so sure.

On the other hand, if there is any life on this planet, or if it’s even in habitable, it could be the glorious, temperate, feminist utopia that we’ve all been waiting for. Maybe it’s full of fresh puppies and flowers and rainbows and social justice for all. We’ll never know until we get over there and check it out.

[Slate]