Topic: Astrobioethics
May 2, 2013 | Posted By John Kaplan, PhD

During a week in which there were a series of tragic events I have selected to write about a scientific discovery that caught my interest.  This news story described the findings published in Science Magazine by a consortium of planetary scientists announcing the discovery of a planetary system of five planets orbiting the star designated Kepler-62. Kepler-62 is 1,200 light years away from Earth, a considerable distance. This discovery follows on the heels of a recent report in the Astrophysical Journal of a similar planetary system orbiting Kepler-69, an earth-sized star 2,700 light years from Earth. I find this to be really fascinating stuff. What makes this so fascinating is that these planetary systems include multiple planets in so-called “habitable zone”, a region appropriate in distance from the corresponding star which would permit water to exist in liquid form. 

You might ask why I would write about this in a bioethics blog. How is this possibly related to bioethics? The answer, to me, is that these planets may meet the criteria to support life. Indeed they may meet the conditions to support life as we know it. Thus I am suggesting that our conceptualization of the existence of life on these planets, the impact of such conceptualization upon us, and our ability to relate to the possibility of life in our universe beyond Earth puts this adequately within the realm of bioethics to fit in this blog. 

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BIOETHICS TODAY is the blog of the Alden March Bioethics Institute, presenting topical and timely commentary on issues, trends, and breaking news in the broad arena of bioethics. BIOETHICS TODAY presents interviews, opinion pieces, and ongoing articles on health care policy, end-of-life decision making, emerging issues in genetics and genomics, procreative liberty and reproductive health, ethics in clinical trials, medicine and the media, distributive justice and health care delivery in developing nations, and the intersection of environmental conservation and bioethics.