From the Director

By Jeff Bernardis, Director

I’m always intrigued by new discoveries, and many times, it’s the method of discovery that grabs me more than the discovery itself.  An example of this is the detection of exoplanets.  While I like to imagine what the planets themselves are like, it’s the ingenuity behind the discovery that I admire.

Imagine my interest when in one single announcement a few days ago, NASA announced that it had confirmed the existence of 715 more exoplanets – all scoured from two year’s worth of the data that the Kepler mission had brought home.  There is still another two years of data to comb through, so who knows how many more they will find? These additional planets nearly double the number of exoplanets we have discovered – all in a single announcement.  Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this discovery is the conjecture that as many as 20% of these planets could support life.  I’m a firm believer that life is out there somewhere. Knowing that life supporting conditions could exist elsewhere obviously strengthens that belief.

Current known potentially habitable exoplanets. Credit: Planetary Habitability Laboratory/University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo.

Current known potentially habitable exoplanets. Credit: Planetary Habitability Lab/Univ.of Puerto Rico, Arecibo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, my question is “How did they do it?”  All I have been able to find out to date is that they used a technique called “verification by multiplicity”.  It seems to be based on the fact that orbital perturbations previously observed and attributed to star interaction is now considered too stable to be caused by stars; hence, the conclusion that the perturbations are caused by multiple planets.  I’d sure like to know more about it – maybe a future speaker…

Believe it or not, we are nearing the end of the current club year.  We need to start thinking about upcoming elections.  Our by-laws call for the appointment of a nominating chairperson at the March meeting.  Nominations would be announced in April, and the election itself would be in May.  I brought this up at the last meeting, and nobody has as yet volunteered for the nominating chair.  If you would be willing to take on this task, please send me an email or let me know at the next meeting.

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This entry was posted in March 2014 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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