Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Other Earths

The newest observatory in space, the Kepler eye-in-the-sky (as I call it), is already paying for itself. It hasn't been online very long, but it's already finding exoplanets. In fact, it's found not one but two exoplanets orbiting around a star not even 960 light years from here. And while they're too close to their parent star to be habitable, they have another upshot - see, these rocky planets are roughly the size of the planet Earth.

Though snuggled too close to their star to be habitable, these first Earth-sized worlds confirmed by the Kepler team are another big step forward for the planet hunters, who recently found a planet somewhat larger than Earth orbiting a sunlike star at a distance hospitable to life. Finding habitable distant worlds — Earth-sized planets at the right distance from their stars to allow the presence of liquid water — is the team’s ultimate goal.
It should go without saying why this is important; we only have one planet. Our entire species is centered around one little planet; one planet that can easily be taken from us in an event as random as an asteroid impact. The wider we spread ourselves out, the less likely it is our species can be exterminated because of one stray asteroid, or one well aimed GRB.

Or even the economic and ecological apocalypse that we're weaving right now, with Global Warming.

Granted, it's 950 light years away (meaning it would take 950 years to reach at the speed of light) and isn't ideal for human habitation (I imagine they're roughly similar to Mercury in temperature and atmospheric make up). But still, this is significant: Earth is small. It is insignificant. Finding another Earth is not only a Holy Grail, but also something that is extremely hard.

However, I have little doubt that Kepler will be able to do it. In fact, I think that Kepler will find a lot of them. I just wish more people wanted a future, rather than long for a past that never was.

Here's a size comparison for the newly discovered planets:

Kepler-20e is probably a bit larger than Mars is, while Kepler-20f is slightly larger than Earth. Both are incredible close in size to Earth. This is an amazing discovery; here's to Kepler finding more, and here's to the future of humanity in expanding out and colonizing this worlds.

1 comment:

  1. Good to hear something positive after so long. Some people are assholes, and they're loud, but there are always other people out there, looking up. Looking out. Finding new places. Don't ever forget to do these posts, too.