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Other Suns

August 21, 2016

If you’re looking for life in other star systems, it’s probably best to start with stars that resemble our own Sun. After all, it’s the only system where we know there’s life. And a couple of stars that fit the profile are in view in the western sky this evening. A few years back, in fact, they were identified as two of the best targets to search for signs of life, and for signs of intelligent life.

More than a decade ago, Margaret Turnbull and Jill Tarter published a catalog of more than 17,000 nearby star systems that could be habitable. The systems feature stars that are similar to the Sun.

Turnbull later picked five of those systems as good candidates for searches for radio signals from other civilizations. Those systems are especially close matches to the Sun.

At the top of the list was Chara, in Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs. It’s in the west-northwest at nightfall, between the bright star Arcturus and the Big Dipper. Chara is almost exactly the same mass as the Sun, and a bit bigger and brighter. It’s also older than the Sun, so there’s been plenty of time for life to develop there.

Another candidate was 18 Scorpii, in Scorpius, which is low in the south-southwest. It, too, is a near-twin to the Sun. It’s perhaps a billion years younger than the Sun, but it appears to have plenty of ingredients for planets.

So far, neither planets nor messages from ET have been detected in either system. Yet the search for planets — and life — continues.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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