Monday, December 05, 2011

Can We Have a Moment of Science, Please?

Every once in awhile my head gets turned by my first love, science. We humans can do some amazing things, and NASA’s Kepler Mission is one of those things. The Kepler Mission (Named after Johannes Kepler, the father of modern astronomy), this is a mission to send a space telescope into Earth orbit, one with incredible optics that can detect the presence of distant solar systems, suns with orbiting planets.

And, no the telescope is not powerful enough to actually see the planets. It takes advantage of the fact that when the planets come between our line of sight and their star, the star’s brightness diminishes slightly, the bigger the planet, the greater the diminishment.

And thus far, the mission has identified hundreds of solar systems with 2,326 “planet candidates.” That’s not bad. But today they announced the discovery of a “Goldilocks Planet.” This is a planet whose average orbital radius is within the zone that allows water to exist in its liquid form, universally considered to be the primary ingredient for the existence of life.

And they know the average orbital radius because they can measure the orbital period of the planet. If it is close to an Earth year, it is within the “not too hot, not too cold zone.”

They call it Kepler-22. A “planet candidate” that, if it is rocky and not a gas ball, and it has the requisite ingredients of abundant liquid water plus carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and potassium, etc. could support life.

And this is just one of a little over 2000.

Consider the odds.

And no, I have not surrendered this blog to science. It is still a political blog. Witness the video that this story reminded me of. Eric Idle’s Galaxy Song.

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