Planets Outside Our Solar System
by Donald L. Rose
Well, are there planets outside our solar system ? The May issue of Scientific American says, "Recent reports of planets circling stars similar to the sun have sent imaginations reeling." Why the excitement? A planet just might support life! But there is still room for doubt on the evidence of the existence of planets beyond the ones we can see. "In the coming weeks astronomers around the world will focus attention . . . . " New evidence is anticipated.
The May 17th Science News shows less caution. We read on page 305, "Astronomers have deduced the presence of one or possibly two additional planets orbiting stars, bringing to 12 or 13 the number of known extrasolar planets." The June issue of Sky and Telescope reviews a book called The Biological Universe. "Recent reports of bodies circling other stars confirm the suspicion that planets probably are common in the universe." The question is asked, "Are we alone? Has intelligent life evolved in other solar systems?"
It is interesting to look at encyclopedias and old science texts to find views on the existence of planets. Some people have asserted that our sun must be the only one in the universe that has planets around it. Others say it is conceivable that there are millions of suns with planets!
In Swedenborg's day it was known that the stars are suns. Around those suns, Swedenborg reports, there are planets. "The reason that these do not appear to our eyes is their being at such an immense distance, and having only the light of their star, which cannot be reflected as far as here" (EU 126).
This year we will learn (if the missions are successful) more about our neighbor Mars, but we will also perhaps have further evidence on the question of the existence of planets outside our solar system . That is a physical question, having to do with the material universe. But its implications go beyond material things.