Thanks again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!
Moving along: some folks aren’t interested, but I find this fascinating; the latest Kepler survey has revealed thousands of possible new exoplanets. Ten of those may be earth-like. Excerpt:
This is the most comprehensive and detailed catalog release of candidate exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, from Kepler’s first four years of data. It’s also the final catalog from the spacecraft’s view of the patch of sky in the Cygnus constellation.
With the release of this catalog, derived from data publicly available on the NASA Exoplanet Archive, there are now 4,034 planet candidates identified by Kepler. Of which, 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified.
Additionally, results using Kepler data suggest two distinct size groupings of small planets. Both results have significant implications for the search for life. The final Kepler catalog will serve as the foundation for more study to determine the prevalence and demographics of planets in the galaxy, while the discovery of the two distinct planetary populations shows that about half the planets we know of in the galaxy either have no surface, or lie beneath a deep, crushing atmosphere – an environment unlikely to host life.
I’d have to add “life as we know it” to that last sentence. But it’s still amazing.
When astronomers first started looking for exoplanets (planets outside or solar system) nobody knew what to expect. Nobody knew if planets were common or rare; nobody knew if our life-friendly little solar system was typical or rare.
Now we know that many, many stars have planets. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before we find a small rocky planet with the spectral lines for oxygen and water coming to us from its atmosphere. That’s not a sure sign of life, but it’s a pretty decent one.
I hope I’m around when that happens.