Friday, April 19, 2013

Reason #285: Space Artists

I thought this would be another nice day for something pleasant to think about, so let's check back in with the good ol' Kepler Space Telescope. Kepler, you may remember, is designed specifically to look for exoplanets by measuring the amount of light coming in from distant stars--if the light dims a little bit every, say, 365 days, then it's a good bet a planet is passing in front of it.

For a long time it was mostly picking up enormous gas giants, which is cool, but not that exciting if you're hoping for something with more of an "Earth" feel. Well, as time has gone on and Kepler's methods have gotten more and more refined, it's starting to pick up planets closer and closer to the size of Earth--some even within their star's habitable zone, such as Keplers 62-e and 62-f, envisioned above. Both are less than twice the size of Earth, which by planetary standards is incredibly close, and both are believed to have rocky composition--though 62-e could potentially be covered in liquid water.

I've done a few posts along these general lines already, and while it's great to see not just the amount of new data but its increasing relevance to the hunt for extraterrestrial life, what I'm really starting to appreciate is the people NASA must have tucked away somewhere churning out digital paintings of every new body they come across, many of which make really snazzy blog post headers. I mean, look at that damn picture up there--if that doesn't make you want to get your ass to another planet, nothing will.

Further Reading

Kepler telescope spots two planets in life-friendly orbit

Reason #80: Kepler

Reason #81: No, Really - Kepler

Reason #170: Yet More Kepler

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