Discover Magazine is running a story detailing the search for planets like Earth orbiting other stars. While we've been able to locate a few "super earths" so far, none of them really compare in size or the potential for habitability with our own world. Fortunately, advances in data analysis and new space-based telescopes — such as Kepler, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the already-launched CoRoT (PDF) — have some astronomers predicting we'll find such an exoplanet by 2010, and a habitable one by 2012. Earth-based telescopes are also in the hunt, though the article notes, "even if a habitable Earth-like world is found first from the ground, it will most likely take a space observatory to search for the chemical signals that tell us what we really want to know: Is anything living out there? If the planet is one that can be observed transiting, it just might be possible to provide a hint of an answer in the next few years."
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