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1,000 new worlds
March 1, 2012 7:12 PM   Subscribe

NASA has announced that the latest Kepler data dump contains 1,091 extrasolar planet candidates, with 196 Earth-sized planets among them. The data shows "a clear trend toward smaller planets at longer orbital periods is evident with each new catalog release. This suggests that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone are forthcoming if, indeed, such planets are abundant." Total Kepler candidates as of February 27, 2012: 2,321.

Related:

*Check out this "orrery-type visualization" of candidate star systems with more than one transiting planet.
*Help search for exterrestrial radio signals at setilive.org.
posted by IvoShandor (44 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I never thought I'd see the day that even a single variable of the drake equation would get even a semi-reliable value. Excitement!
posted by absalom at 7:20 PM on March 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


I come from one of them. There isn't much time; I trust my words will be able to..
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:28 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


1,091 extrasolar planet candidates, with 196 Earth-sized planets among them.

My God, can you imagine how many Metafilter subscriptions that is? This is how Matt made his billions.

Personally, I'm not all that happy about these newbie members from other planets. But I'll talk to them anyway.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:34 PM on March 1, 2012


This thing has been in operation about three years and it's taught us more about the potential for life outside of our own solar system than anything to date.

Pretty awesome.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:47 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


From the picture in the first link, it looks like they found the Harkonnen home world.
posted by Mr Mister at 7:49 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Good argument for getting more money to NASA -- they're producing so much amazing information about our universe.
posted by jiawen at 7:52 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Obama's budget calls for cutting Kepler funding significantly in 2013 and ending it entirely in 2014.
posted by newdaddy at 7:56 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Too bad there aren't a-rabs and terrorists on those planets so we can get the funding from NSA or whatever.
posted by H. Roark at 8:03 PM on March 1, 2012


Wish Sagan were alive to see this.
posted by pts at 8:16 PM on March 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Obama's budget calls for cutting Kepler funding significantly in 2013 and ending it entirely in 2014.

There is actually a couple fair reasons for this, namely: Kepler will eventually run out of propellant (this means re-orienting itself monthly for data downloads and quarterly to align its solar cells with the sun becomes impossible), and Kepler's distance from Earth is steadily growing all the time, so at some point it will be extremely difficult to maintain normal data download rates.

The thing is, NASA very, very rarely shuts off spacecraft that are still working and returning good data. Voyagers 1 and 2 had missions that "officially" would have ended 30 years ago, but NASA continues funding. With the massive wealth of science that Kepler is returning, as long as it keeps returning good data, they'll find the money to keep the people down here on Earth working with it.
posted by chimaera at 8:16 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well this drives me nuts. Exactly how successful would this mission need to be in order to merit continued funding? Americans should be rightfully proud of Kepler - no one else in (our) world is doing this, but instead, we're pulling the plug on this, and the Mars sample return missions with ESA, and why? Because no one is brave enough to actually compute the Laffer Curve? Because America needs one more drone?
posted by newdaddy at 8:16 PM on March 1, 2012


Ok, wished I'd seen Chimaera's comment before the previous post, but still. This whole churn where NASA has to contemplate which limb it could most easily do without each year, it's stupid, and it makes me see red.
posted by newdaddy at 8:21 PM on March 1, 2012


Tech we need to get there as fast as possible, at least according to the SF of Greg Egan: We put some very fancy robots in a rocket and send it off to an extrasolar, where it will decelerate and orbit the planet. It then starts up its factories and starts making stuff--all sorts of stuff. All the stuff we can make here on Earth and then some (ok, basically a Star Trek replicator). At first it'll be probes that go out and mine comets and asteroids for base material, then it can make more exotic and cool stuff. There's also some plant and animal DNA brought along, and the 'bots set up cloning labs.

At the same time (well beforehand?), back on Earth, we perfect the brainscan. We find out how to digitize the totality of a human being--memories, personality...soul, if that makes you feel better--into a series of 1s and 0s, and beam that info at the speed of light to the extrasolar. The orbital station clone lab receives the stream (that is, gets YOU)and puts it into your clone. You take a shuttle down planetside and your new life awaits you in the off-world colony! A chance to begin again!

How hard could it be?
posted by zardoz at 8:23 PM on March 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I, for one, welcome our extra-planetary co-lords.
posted by kozad at 8:38 PM on March 1, 2012


This suggests that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone are forthcoming if, indeed, such planets are abundant.

I am having trouble parsing this sentence.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:55 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


This suggests that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone are forthcoming if, indeed, such planets are abundant.

I am having trouble parsing this sentence.


I think they mean that if such planets are abundant, we will find them soon.
posted by shazzam at 9:06 PM on March 1, 2012


It's just because our big telescopes are covered with gauze (a few miles of atmosphere). We need giant telescopes in space!
posted by sammyo at 9:11 PM on March 1, 2012


if = and?
posted by IvoShandor at 9:11 PM on March 1, 2012


I see this and I think 'we're not alone, seriously'.
posted by oonh at 9:12 PM on March 1, 2012


This stuff should be on the front page of every newspaper in the world. Instead...

jet_manifesto: Hey, did you hear the news that they found another 1,000 exoplanets?
other person: Exo-what?
jet_manifesto: Exoplanets. Planets around other stars.
other person: No way, man, you're dreaming.
jet_manifesto: No seriously, it's real. Check out the Kepler project online.
other person: Whatever, who cares. Hey, did you hear the latest news about #celebrity?
jet_manifesto: ...
posted by jet_manifesto at 9:21 PM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


NPR had a story a couple of days ago about the SETI Institute's new search. I loved onething that Jill Tarter said:

"I just am totally thrilled by the fact that I happen to be alive in the first generation among thousands of generations, which have asked this question. And suddenly, we have the tools of the astronomer to try and answer the question by doing experiments rather than asking the priests and the philosophers what we should believe."
posted by neuron at 9:31 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]




If you ever have access to an iPad, installing or a developer emulator, this application(free) does a job of assisting in beginning to visualize what the "context" of Sol system is, among the many stars, and highlighting systems with exoplanets, it updates frequently (with lots of information on the methods of discovery too).
posted by infinite intimation at 9:33 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Too bad there aren't a-rabs and terrorists on those planets so we can get the funding from NSA or whatever

In case you care, the NSA does in fact fund plenty of basic research in mathematics which is unclassified and has no direct relation with counterterrorism or any other aspect of national security.
posted by escabeche at 9:38 PM on March 1, 2012


I may be from one of them... sometimes watching others... I just feel like I have nothing in common with them. Terrans are funny. I wish I knew what I really was. It would make this whole adventure... more tenable.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 10:28 PM on March 1, 2012


FYI you can comb through the Kepler data and try to find planets yourself, at PlanetHunters.org. It's great fun.

And obligatory self-aggrandizing note: Got my first-ever contributor credit to an actual published scientific paper when one of the little blips I spotted on PlanetHunters (along with a lot of other people, of course) was featured in a journal article PlanetHunter scientists/organizers wrote up. It's not every day normal folks get a chance to participate in actual SCIENCE!
posted by flug at 10:33 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Along with much more money, NASA needs some PR staff who know how to communicate to a broader audience. The phrase "A clear trend toward smaller planets at longer orbital periods is evident with each new catalog release. This suggests that Earth-size planets in the habitable zone are forthcoming if, indeed, such planets are abundant" is gibberish to me, and I feel like I know from some science.

Can't they just say, "Data suggests Earthlike planets might be X percent more abundant than we thought" or whatever they are trying to say?
posted by Camofrog at 11:11 PM on March 1, 2012


We're making a better world... all of them... better worlds...
posted by PenDevil at 11:15 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


What they are saying is more-or-less the following: At first for technical reasons we only found large planets orbiting close to stars. As time passes we are finding smaller and smaller planets located further and further from the stars. This trend indicates that we will soon be able to locate earth-size planets at earth-distances away from stars. If such planets are common it is likely we will identify some in the not too distant future.
posted by Justinian at 12:04 AM on March 2, 2012


It's just because our big telescopes are covered with gauze (a few miles of atmosphere). We need giant telescopes in space!

That's being worked on, so for a few things, Ground-based-telescopes aren't too bad.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:05 AM on March 2, 2012


Pretty crazy. When I was a kid there were 9 known planets in the Universe. I remember the news about, Eris, which the astronomer wanted to name Xena after the TV show. Then a few years later I'm looking up how many extra solar planets are known and there were hundreds. Now, in the past two years we've like already doubled the number.

I think the estimates now are that there are something like 100 billion planets in the galaxy. Crazy.
My God, can you imagine how many Metafilter subscriptions that is? This is how Matt made his billions.
Given the distances, even if we'd been using lasers to beam these messages directly to these systems, which we didn't know about at the time, since the beginning of most of them wouldn't have even reached their destination.
posted by delmoi at 12:45 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


In all honesty, this really is immense news. It's so awesome to learn more about other stellar systems... and the planetary systems that orbit these distant stars.

I am just quietly optimistic, and joyously enthralled.

I too wonder what Carl would think... and wish he were still with us.

It really is all so tremendously beautiful.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 1:24 AM on March 2, 2012


Because America needs one more drone?

A lot of people think "at least the drone is doing something productive" along with "what good does knowing about all these planets do for people here on earth?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:52 AM on March 2, 2012


(Karloff voice) Things are getting ... interesting.
posted by Twang at 2:02 AM on March 2, 2012



A lot of people think [...] "what good does knowing about all these planets do for people here on earth?"


Fuck those people.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:42 AM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


The problem is that those people exist in real life, in numbers, and saying "fuck those people" won't do anything except piss them off and get the cool science project cut.

My only point is that these people exist, often are positions of power and hold some purse strings and they have to be dealt with, like it or not.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:29 AM on March 2, 2012


To explore strange new worlds.
To seek out new life and new civilizations.
To boldly go where no one has gone before.

Yeah!
posted by Gelatin at 4:57 AM on March 2, 2012


Ok, wished I'd seen Chimaera's comment before the previous post, but still. This whole churn where NASA has to contemplate which limb it could most easily do without each year, it's stupid, and it makes me see red.

I've been a fan of space exploration since an early age, and find every wave of Kepler results exciting too, but I also realize NASA isn't the only part of the Federal government being asked to make very tough decisions. Our decade of very expensive wars, and continuing reluctance to fairly tax the very rich mean we simply can't have everything we want, or probably even much of what we want, at this point. The story on NPR this morning about serious cuts to community block grants meaning elderly poor people in some cities may soon have nowhere to go for decent meals kind of puts it in perspective.
posted by aught at 5:24 AM on March 2, 2012


I never thought I'd see the day that even a single variable of the drake equation would get even a semi-reliable value. Excitement!

Let's hope like hell we don't fix a value on L soon.
posted by eriko at 6:28 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


...NASA isn't the only part of the Federal government being asked to make very tough decisions.

I work in a business that does DoD work and NASA work, side by side, and the differences in resources, funding, government goodwill and culture would be laughable if they weren't so tragic. I also have worked in the intelligence industry and it is similar to DoD work. Trust me, not everybody is being asked to make the same level of tough decisions. Worse, NASA was not asked - NASA was told by the administration that astrophysics and planetary science would take hits, while other parts of NASA (the remnants of the manned program, the new launcher) would be favored.

The whole Norquistian notion of "starving the beast" is a big blarney. The military, intelligence, and TSA portions of the government are practically bathing in money. The sky's been the limit over there ever since 9/11. Only now are they starting to have any sense of propriety again in terms of spending.

I don't think every Metafilter thread should be about politics. I'm sorry for the derail.
posted by newdaddy at 7:02 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


...NASA isn't the only part of the Federal government being asked to make very tough decisions.

We could cut military spending by a lot and boost NASA by a (relatively) little, and come out with huge cost savings in total. And bring net benefits to society from both sides--from cutting military spending back to more realistic/sustainable levels and from the increased investment in science and space exploration.
posted by flug at 7:23 AM on March 2, 2012


To explore strange new worlds.

Check.

To seek out new life and new civilizations.

Check.

To boldly go where no one has gone before.

Whoa, there, Hoss. . .
 
posted by Herodios at 7:24 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given the distances, even if we'd been using lasers to beam these messages directly to these systems, which we didn't know about at the time, since the beginning of most of them wouldn't have even reached their destination.

I have this horrible suspicion that the first interstellar message from another world will be "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS HITLER GUY? SOMEBODY SHOULD STOP HIM, SERIOUSLY."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:47 AM on March 2, 2012


Wish Sagan were alive to see this.

That's okay, I'm sure he is watching from heaven and has a great view of it.

...ducks for cover
posted by dgran at 8:16 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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