Thursday 30 September 2010

there's water at the bottom of the ocean or someone has been lying in my bed

Just a few short months ago, the Kepler satellite opened its eyes on a postage stamp sized area of the heavens and nearly instantaneously seven hundred candidate planets popped into view. A parallel European Space Agency project was also hunting for stars possibly harboring planets using an alternate method of measuring slight gravitational perturbations caused by an orbiting body, as compared to Kepler's gauging the twinkling that happens when a planet partially eclipses its host star. Discoveries, I think, will be exploding like firecrackers from here on out. This excitement relegates mundane worries like the economy and manic power-grabs to the domain of petty Astronomers are planning to reexamine candidate sites to see if alien oceans or atmospheres can be detected by looking for glints of sunshine, like off of sunsets at the beach. There was no chance to test that method, however, before Gliese 581 g, as Reuters reports, was discovered slinking about the so-called habitable, Goldie Locks zone of a star some twenty light years away. It is a bit chauvinistic to think only life as earthlings know it is out there, but hoping that life, in all its creativity and super-abundance, might at least be familiar on a chemical level is comforting. The exo-planet in the constellation Libra has been unofficially called "Zarmina" after co-discoverer Steven Vogt's wife, and I think that's a perfectly spacey name for it.