After the world did not end on Dec. 21 like many thousands had been led to believe, researchers have gone on to eagerly anticipate 2013 and are now focusing thoughts on uncovering a planet similar to Earth.
There has been a concerted effort over the last decade aimed at finding a planet outside our solar system that orbits a star in what's known as the habitable zone – the distance a plant must be from a star in order to support life.
Scientists have logged several of these celestial bodies, known as exo-planets, during the past decade. What has intrigued astronomers thus far is discovering that a few of these exo-planets share one or two traits similar to Earth. These traits relate to the size of the Earth as well as the surface temperature that is known to be hospitable to life as we know it.
"I'm very positive that the first Earth twin will be discovered next year," Abel Mendez, of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, told Space.com.
The first planet orbiting star outside of our own solar system was discovered in 1995 and since then, with the help high-powered telescopes orbiting the Earth, 800 or so of these exo-planets have been found.
With astronomers around the globe scanning the heavens for these elusive space bodies, scientists believe it is just a matter of time before there is solid confirmation of an Earth-like planet outside of our own solar system.
"The first planet with a measured size, orbit and incident stellar flux that is suitable for life is likely to be announced in 2013," Geoff Marcy, with the University of California, Berkeley said according to Yahoo News.
However, some astronomers are using the rule of large numbers in the hope that such a planet will be found given that there are many planets and many more stars throughout the universe. Unfortunately, there are so many of these possible exo-planets that scientists will never be able to search them all.
"Estimating carefully, there are 200 billion stars that host at least 50 billion planets, if not more … assuming that 1:10,000 are similar to the Earth would give us 5,000,000 such planets," Mikko Tuomi, of the University of Hertfordshire in England, told SPACE.com.