Media Distortions of Earthlike Planets 

If you read the newspapers and their description of new planets being found around other stars you might come to the conclusion that scientists are finding earth-like planets everywhere.  A good example was a recent report in Astronomy (August 2007, page 20) that star Gliese 581 "harbors the most earth like planet ever discovered."  Here are the facts: 

(1) Gliese 581 is a red dwarf.  Any star has a zone where water will exist as a liquid, but a cold star will have it close to the star and that is the case here. 

(2) The planet is about 1.5 the earth's radius, so it is fairly small, but its mass is five times that of the earth, so its gravity would be huge and its atmosphere would be toxic. 

(3) It takes the planet 12.9 days to orbit the star and it is only 6.8 million miles away from that star.  This would not allow any earth-like properties to exist.  There may be an earthlike planet somewhere, but so far what has been learned is that a planet like ours is incredibly rare and the natural processes that produce other solar systems make it increasingly less likely that accidents can produce what we see in the world around us.

Used by permission from John Clayton, Does God Exist? Jan-Fen 2008.