Another Earth

Posted in Breaking Thoughts, Thoughts for the Day on December 6, 2011 by TheRocketArtist

Kepler 22b.    That is the name of it.   The discovery was just announced the other day by the NASA Kepler team.   It is the first confirmed discovery of another Earth.   A second Earth.  Really a “Super Earth”, it is 2.4 times the radius of our planet.   Orbiting a star 600 light years away from us with a period of about 290 days.   The average surface temperature is about 72 degrees F.   It lies in what is called the Goldilocks Zone (the Habitable Zone, where liquid water can exist, where conditions are mild and favorable for life).

And this is just the beginning.   We are just on the very edge of being able to detect rocky worlds.   Other Earths.   The odds are that there are thousands, if not millions, of them in our Galaxy alone.   As I said before, in this respect, Star Trek got it right.   I believe in the next decade, we will discover many more Earths, more rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their parent stars.   More Venuses.   More Mars-like worlds.   Our technology is on the verge.  The techniques have been carefully refined over the past decade.   We are on the cusp.

Kepler has hauled 2,326 potential planets in its first 16 months.   If confirmed, they will quadruple the already known and confirmed 700 planets in the Exoplanet catalog.   And we have just scratched the surface.  This Galaxy must be buzzing with worlds.   Swarms of  hot Jupiters.   Neptunes.   Earths.   And what does that mean for life?   It happened here.   Was it just an accident of Nature?    The elements and atoms that compose the Universe are everywhere the same.   The forces that govern physics operate identically all over the Universe.   Newton’s laws.   Kepler’s laws of planetary motion.  Einstein’s Relativity.   All hold everywhere the same.   Why not?   Why not life on other worlds?   If my conjecture is correct, and we will find many thousands more Earths in the Milky Way, the odds are high, it seems to me, that life exists out there in our Galaxy.

And what of the rest of the Universe?   There are a hundred billion galaxies in the known Universe.   If each galaxy contains several millions of worlds around its billions of stars, then you must multiply that by a hundred billion.    Perhaps i’m an optimist, although by the statistics I would say I’m a realist, but I feel that this Universe must be positively teeming with life.    We have only just begun to look.    We have only just looked up and glanced around and, stunned and startled, but curious just the same, noticed the worlds beyond our shores.   Other Earths.

Stay tuned….

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Do Worlds Exist Beyond “our lonely Eden”?

Posted in Breaking Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2011 by TheRocketArtist

I wrote the following piece for the Daily Bruin some years ago when I was a columnist there, but I wanted to revisit it because so much has happened since then.   At that time, we knew of no extrasolar planets for certain.   Now we know of at least 700, with the Kepler mission adding potentially thousands more.   And some of those are Earth-size worlds. We have just begun to realise Carl Sagan’s dream of an “Encyclopedia Galactica”.   It’s kind of amusing to think about, but Star Trek got it exactly right.  There must be millions of worlds in this Galaxy alone.   We’re finding them at the rate of roughly 1 per week.   And we’re beginning to see rocky smaller worlds.   To see other ways that solar systems have evolved.   The Galaxy is positively rippling with planets.   And life?   We’re beginning to study these worlds for real–their orbits, their atmospheres, whole planetary systems that are different from our own.   And all this in the last  6 or 7 years.   Soon we will be charting other Earths.   And what of the other 100 billion galaxies in the known Universe.  What if they’re teeming with worlds too?   They probably are.    All the more reason for us to keep venturing outward on our voyages of discovery.  Because, as Ray Bradbury once wrote…when we get back, we’ll know ourselves for the first time.   The “Martians” will be us.   We are the explorers.

So here is the link to my original article:

http://www.dailybruin.com/index.php/article/1994/10/do-worlds-exist-beyond-our-lon

A message to Congress

Posted in Thoughts for the Day on September 19, 2011 by TheRocketArtist

Thomas Paine once wrote that the eyes of future generations are watching us, judging us, not only on what we do here and now, but what we fail to try.  This nation has led the world into space.  Along the way, we have reaped the whirlwind of technology and knowledge and the glow of achieving past impossibles, which is quintessentially American.  We are the custodians of that quest.   We are the heirs of that dream. We cannot allow this nation to stand naked in space.  We cannot let the rest of the world go further and higher and dream larger.  We cannot pull back at a time when a little more might have made all the difference to the Future and made them proud.  We go into space because we have always chased a better world, a new horizon, a beckoning frontier.

Yes, it is imperative for government to live within its means, like all Americans ought to do.  But equally as vital we must stay true to our natures, to the spirit of learning new things and venturing where we have not been before.  That keeps America a vital nation and a leader of the world.  Space is not a luxury.  It is now a birthright, for all Americans and for those future generations.   The amount we spend on space amounts to less than 3% of what we spend on Defense.   And whatever we spend “in space”, is spent here, on Earth, in our own economy.  The better we understand our world, the better stewards of it we will be.   And the greater profits we will reap as we venture out into the Galaxy. Unlimited resources, countless worlds…waiting for us. I urge you not to shrink from the future, but to look ahead to the far horizon.  To summon the courage to do great things.  And to fight for this nation’s quest into the unknown.  Not just for our time.  But for all time.  Dare to be remembered for action, for courage, for a vision.  We dare not today show cowardice in the face of the Future.  NASA is not the right place to trim dollars.  A nation that loses her hopes and her dreams, defaults on her future.   Trim instead from redundant defense programs that do not make us safer.  Trim from the unending supply of meaningless pork and pet projects that bloat our budgets.  But I urge you, in no uncertain terms, to remember that this nation must go into space.  For we have, as JFK once said, thrown our hat over the wall of Space.  And we have no choice but to follow…

…future generations are watching us.