It has come to my attention that NASA is just hours away from revealing tight-lipped information about a new discovery in the “hunt for life.” That could mean a number of things. Everyone has heard about the one way to trip to Mars to cultivate, experimentally, life on that planet. In other words, Mars One, as it has been so named, is a one-way death sentence to a planet that might work out. Although you have to admit, the progress we are making as a species is spectacular. First, we sent, a monkey into space, then people, now we are sending them off to go live on another planet? Orson Welles is rolling in his grave. Anyway, the news from NASA could be related to that… or, it could be something else.
For as long as we have looked up into the night sky, we have twirled the thought of extraterrestrial life around in our minds. In fact, almost two years ago an article was published in Forbes that said aliens might very soon be discovered. (see here). Yet now with NASA being so secretive about their new discovery, people are beginning to wonder again.
The Kepler mission, which was a mission that was launched in 2009 to discovery “Earth-like” planets in our Milky Way Galaxy, is said to have made the new discovery that NASA will be announcing. So far, it has found, 1,000 exoplanets – a planet that is not in our solar system and has found 3,600 planet “candidates”. The mission, which cost an amazing $600 million dollars, uses a technique that detects tiny drops in brightness when the planets cross the faces of their host stars. This is what happened yesterday when Mercury, our smallest planet, cross our sun’s face for the first time in a decade.
This is what the Kepler saw when Mercury passed in front of the sun yesterday. It allows the telescope to get a glimpse of the planet, as well as to take photos to study what the planet consists of. Science is awesome!
However, the Kepler telescope malfunctioned almost three years ago, which made it lose it’s pointing ability, kind of hard to find a planet if you can’t point at it. Yet the scientist ended up stabilizing the telescope by using sunlight pressure (what?) and the remaining stabilizers that hadn’t malfunctioned. So in 2014, it was back in action and was sent on a new mission dubbed K2.
Although the Kepler is looking for “Earth-like” planets the Deputy Executive Director of the Royal Astronomical Society, Robert Massey, said, “We have to be careful about describing a planet as ‘Earth-like,’ which is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot. We may find a planet that’s the same mass as Earth and is in the habitable zone of a star, but that doesn’t tell us what the planet is made of or whether life could survive there.”
Who knows what NASA is going to announce, it could be that we found a planet, it could be that we didn’t. It could be that they discovered a giant asteroid headed for Earth, in which case we will send Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck up in a ship to drill a hole in it and blow it up. It could be that they found some neighbors in a nearby planet. No one knows for sure, but we will find out at 1 p.m. Stay tuned.