Water Found in Extrasolar Planet’s Atmosphere


Huge announcement today for people interested in astro-biology:

“Astronomers have detected water in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system for the first time.

The finding, to be detailed in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal, confirms previous theories that say water vapor should be present in the atmospheres of nearly all the known extrasolar planets. Even hot Jupiters, gaseous planets that orbit closer to their stars than Mercury to our Sun, are thought to have water.

The discovery, announced today, means one of the most crucial elements for life as we know it can exist around planets orbiting other stars.”

This is big because it can start to give us a handle on determining the number of planets we can expect to orbit in the “life zone” that surrounds a star. (The life zone is the region that would allow liquid water to exist on the surface of a planet. Too close to the star and the surface temp on the planet is too hot for liquid water, too far and the temp. is too cold. The life zone in our solar system extends from just outside the orbit of Venus to just about the orbit of Mars.)

This has implications for astro-biology because the existence of a liquid solvent on the surface of a planet is thought to be a necessary prerequisite for evolutionary processes to begin. And because everywhere on Earth where there is liquid water, there is life. Even in a fully enclosed water bubble in a glacier…

The need to determine the number of planets that we expect to find in the life zone is one of the parameters that gets put into the Drake Equation – which in turn can tell us how likely we are to find other lifeforms in the Galaxy. (Specifically the ne parameter in the equation.)

From a theological viewpoint – this gets interesting because one wonders if there should be sentient life forms on other planets, did they participate in the “fall of creation” or not? If so, have they experienced Jesus incarnated among them?

And of course, what if they are DNA based life? Does that indicate that we and/or they evolved somewhere other than where we are presently found?

Read the rest here: SPACE.com — BREAKING NEWS: Water Found in Extrasolar Planet’s Atmosphere

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. This isn’t an original question, but: If there’s intelligent life on other planets, but Jesus appeared and is known only here on Earth, what are the implications under traditionalist soteriology? Are we back in the realm of “anonymous Christians”? Or of the RC church’s theory that those who don’t know Christ through no fault of their own can still be saved if they try to live good lives?
    (Traditionalists claim that Jesus is the only way to salvation, but if they were to accept the RC carve-out, then depending on your definition of “fault,” the exception could easily swallow the rule.)

  2. I have no doubt Jesus has been to Alpha Centauri and all around the universe.
    Or will be going, soon.

  3. This is so interesting. I remember as a geeky second grader reading every book the public library had on space, and wondering about planets beyond our solar system.
    It would seem theologically in terms of Incarnation, however, that if there are other lifeforms of sentience like ourselves, that if they too have fallen, the Logos, would have to become flesh recognizeable to them?
    I also wonder, given a tendency in the cosmos and nature to replicate patterns, like for example, wolf-like dinosaurs or wolf-like marsupials in Australia (until we put them to extinction), if DNA wouldn’t in fact be more part of a larger pattern, the way God has and orders creation?

  4. A MacArthur says

    Given sentient life capable of reflecting on the ephemeral nature of the material world, I would think God would reveal Himself in a way to be recognized by that form of life. It is ridiculous to think that He would take the form of our Jesus Christ, who was in human (Read:Homo sapiens!)form while at the same time Divine.
    After all, human cultures here on Earth have had revealed to them paths to the Divine other than our Christianity,and they should be recognized as having equal validity as ways to connect with the Divine.
    It is way past time to retire “traditionalist soteriology” if what that demands is that we follow Christ or else!

  5. Fr. Nick, this post – and your conjecture above – reminded me of something I’d read a couple of years ago on Fr. AKMA’s blog:

    That’s part of my puzzlement about the current retrospective “This is true Anglicanism” impulse in some quarters. I had always thought that true Anglicanism bore with the potty vicar who was sure that Jesus was really an astral traveller, or that theological doctrine was a pointless appendix to the finer points of fox-hunting. Such people come, they occupy seats of greater or lesser prominence and authority, then they retire or die, and the church itself doesn’t change much. The point isn’t that we don’t care about error or try to correct error, but that the Truth is stronger, lasts longer, and eventually renders error moot. Truth counteracts error from within the church.

    I added the bold above. And now it sure looks like those “potty vicars” weren’t so potty after all….

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