Tuesday, 29 November 2011

DECEMBER 11th [Science Comedy Advent Calendar]

December 11th: Kepler 22-b

For some, Christmas is all about the anticipation. What you're going to get, how other's are going to react to what you get them, will you get what it is you actually want, are you going to end up never speaking to certain family members again? The possibilities are what get some people worked up, to the point where the actual main reveal is something of a disappointment.

At the time of writing this, a similar situation exists in the astronomical community, as well as, to a certain extent, the 'understanding the universe and our place in it' community, although they can get a little theological/philosophical at times. The sort of people you would invite round for dinner, but wouldn't want them renting your spare room for fear of constant discussions about man's role in the grand scheme of life itself when all you want them to do is pay for some of the milk they keep stealing from you.

Recently, it was announced that the most Earth-like planet to date was discovered. Named Kepler 22-b, it's sparked a lot of debate and conversation about the ramifications of the possibility of life, the uniqueness of Earth, interest in space travel and numerous other things. Its location is known, it's in the right place to support life (by our standards, anyway) in the 'Goldilocks zone', it's bigger than Earth but not excessively so, and it's (by galactic standards) right down the road. But they don't know if it's made of mostly gas, rock or air yet (but judging by the name, they seem to know its cup size?) so it may be completely useless for what we 'want'?

This is the space science equivalent of the big chunky square present under the tree with your name on it. It could be the new laptop you've been going on about, it could be a new PS3 that you're sure you've heard a few hints about, or it could be a large pair of novelty pants in an oversized box.

Time will tell, but in many ways, the waiting ends up being the best part. That is sort of the point of advent calendars, in a way

Twitter: @garwboy


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