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.