The Extraordinary Aside

Bond contracts and diplomatic notes aren’t the only places where the casual asides can be more rewarding than the main text.

NASA announced yesterday that its Kepler space telescope has helped scientists identify an exoplanet clearly positioned in an orbit that would allow it to have liquid water on its surface.

Twice before astronomers have announced planets found in that zone, but neither was as promising. One was disputed; the other is on the hot edge of the zone. Kepler 22-B is the smallest and the best positioned of the more than 500 planets found to orbit stars beyond our solar system to have liquid water on its surface — among the ingredients necessary for life on Earth.

Good news of course, and with its mass size estimated at 2.4 times Earth’s, it’s the closest match yet to our own. But did you see what the author did right after the word “of”? Mentioned that, just by the by, humanity has now found more than 500 planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system. Five. Hundred.

Moreover, “With the discovery, the Kepler space telescope has now located 2,326 potential planets during its first 16 months of operation.” I’ve written about this before, but it never ceases to amaze. This is what living in the future is like.

ps Six years ago, the smallest confirmed exoplanet had a mass size of about seven times Earth’s. The intervening years have tripled the precision of humanity’s detection capabilities.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Life, Not Europe, Science and research by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

5 thoughts on “The Extraordinary Aside

  1. Actually, it’s the radius which is 2.4 times Earth’s. All they know about the mass is that it’s less than 36 times Earth’s.

    With a radius that large, if it’s a solid planet like Earth and not a gas giant, the surface gravity is probably something like four times as strong as Earths, which doesn’t imply very Earth-like conditions.

  2. Thanks Infidel, I’ll go fix it now. The awesomeness made me a less careful reader than usual.

  3. Even if this planet could be demonstrated to have liquid water, that doesn’t mean that planet has (or does not have) life on it.

    Any extraterrestrial life out there doesn’t necessarily have anything in common with the critters roaming the Earth.

    For that matter, extraterrerstrial lifte itself may not even be something we earthlings would readily recognize as “life.”

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