Friday, February 4, 2011

Potential New Earths

Scientists announced on Wednesday (February 02, 2011) that NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 1,235 alien planet candidates, including 54 that orbit in their host stars' habitable zone – that just-right range of distances that allow liquid water to exist. What this means is that these 54 planets have conditions that may be suitable for life.

The Kepler Space Telescope launched in March 2009, was tasked with searching for Earth-size alien planets in their stars' habitable zones. The telescope's science mission will run through at least November 2012. What Kepler does is to stare fixedly at a patch corresponding to 1/400th of the sky and in just four months of observations, it has looked at more than 150,000 stars.

What a discovery! My first reaction would be “Wow!”! My second reaction would be “Now, we may have planetary candidates for the human race to plunder, to exploit, to abuse”. If this idea of another Earth(s) is now less far-fetched, it is still a long way off before we can concede that it is very much plausible. Kepler is, after all, a first step in the search for life beyond Earth. A small but important step.

THE KEPLER SPACE TELESCOPE

I stumbled upon this little story (New Straits Times, December 30, 2008, p 32) about one Russian’s senses were so dulled as a result of excessive drinking that he failed to notice a knife stuck in his back by a colleague! Why am I telling you this? Well, for a start, drinking takes the edge off workplace stress. And Russians supposedly have long used drink for this reason. The other blessing is that hard drinking is a great painkiller! Hahaha…

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