Exoplanets and Us

Along with ourselves, there are seven planets in this solar system: Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury.

The latest composite image of Mercury

The latest composite image of Mercury

As well, there are dwarf planets – like Pluto – asteroids, comets and moons.

Europa, one of four Jupiter moons

Europa, Jupiter’s ice-bound moon

We have a rough idea of what these worlds are composed of and are quite certain that none of them can sustain us. princeExoplanets are the planets outside our solar system, all of which invisible by telescope and instead detected by the disruption in light from distant stars. Kepler 22b, 600 light years away, is an exciting find because it is similar to earth in size and orbiting distance from its sun.

Kepler 22b

Kepler 22b

It is estimated that there are some 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone and a septillion – a thousand billion billion – planets in the universe. As Carl Sagan says, that’s more than all of grains of sand in all of the beaches on Earth. m16 image by travis rector.  correction layers added by mark hannaThere is little doubt that many of the planets out there have life on them; the question is in their level of intelligence and what kind of shenanigans might occur when we finally meet.

Election Day – Eight Days After Hurricane Sandy

The problem with us humans is that we tend to forget. And most of what we like to forget is all the bad things that we’ve done. This planet is in trouble and we are to blame. There is no doubt about any of that.

Con Edison truck acting as temporary barrier to the Stock Exchange

Sadly, we have stacked the cards badly against ourselves and it doesn’t look good…but at least we can try. And today there is a choice for American voters. Barack Obama on climate change: “The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril. There may still be disputes about exactly how much we’re contributing to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere and how much is naturally occurring, but what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return.”

Mitt Romney on climate change: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Kepler 22b …and only seven hundred light years away!

It is true that Obama has a long way to go on this issue, but he is the only option…unless we’re thinking of taking a starship to another planet so we can fuck that one up too.