If you’ve any interest in astronomy and space at all then you’re probably aware that there’s been something of a “situation” this past week, involving one of the Kepler mission’s scientists and the Kepler data. To cut a very long story short, one of the Co-Investigators of the Kepler mission, Dimitar Sasselov, gave a public lecture last week – which has been available to watch online – in which he appeared to claim, both on an illustrative slide, and in his commentary itself, that Kepler had found “hundreds of Earth-like planets”…

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Kepler Mission – Errare Humanum Est

I’ve been reflecting on the events surrounding the TED lecture by my colleague, Dimitar Sasselov.  There is disappointment in the air.  People who were misled to believe that Kepler had found many other earths out there now realize that this isn’t the case.  I understand how they must feel.  I admit that I feel a little bit disappointed too, though not for the same reason.  I and my colleagues have worked hard to understand our data and to plan out the analysis in a systematic and methodical way.  We are excited by the small, but steady stream of discoveries that we are making.  And we have full confidence that one day we will learn something profound about habitable, earth-size planets in our galaxy.  I felt a bit derailed and stunned by the announcement of 140 “earth-like” planets by my colleague.  I admit that I, like many out there, understood it to mean “earth-size” and “habitable”.  And even though I now understand that this isn’t what he meant, I admit that I still feel a bit disappointed.

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One day, from the shores of a new world,

we’ll gaze at the sea that took us there.

And its waves will be stars.

Lutetia…we are on our way!

“The Rosetta orbiter, which carries the DLR lander Philae, has completed more than two thirds of its journey to the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The most comprehensive cometary investigation ever, the mission will deliver DLR’s Philae lander to the comet’s surface for in situ studies. The spacecraft and lander are due to close in on 21 Lutetia, a large Main Belt Asteroid on 10 July.”

Read full article at DLR website and follow ESA’s blog for updated information.

Picking up the staff

A long, long time ago, in an Earth’s continent, creatures that would gave origin to Mankind, descended from a tree. An event with the known consequences.

One crumbling step after the other, we’ve spread ourselves through the orb, but that tree, that tree we once called home, remained alive, following its nature, following the rhythm of the seasons, loosing leaves, earning a new foliage, sharing its fruits.

That same tree is within us, within each one of us, always present in our collective experience as a species.

We are now under the shadow of a different tree, the universal one, scanning its branches, aiming at its juicy fruitage, never tasted before.

As, in the remoteness of time, we became bipedal beings who started roaming the land in search of the proper sites where we could thrive, we are now taking that pursuance a little farer.

Nowadays, hot jupiters and other almost unclassifiable sorts of exoplanets are our new deserts, our new abysses but…somewhere there, in the distance, a new verdant valley awaits us.

What we are doing here, peering at the stars, is the equivalent to our long march along the ridges of the Earth, on a vital scouting for survival.

We are, once more, picking up the staff, we are, once more, nomads, stellar nomads.

We are clearing the way for the Homo Viator.

At the prow of the whole

It may look like that we are, each one, ultimately, alone in the vastness of the Universe.
It may look like that all its secrets and distances will remain elusive, unsurpassable for Mankind.
It may look like that we should just accomodate ourselves to this perspective and, calmly, with no questions, just resign to this fate.
The truth is that we do not agree with appearances and we do not cease wondering.
The truth is that we will strive to give a meaning to this, aparently, neverending wandering.
We are, each one of us, ultimately, not alone.
We are, each one of us, ultimately, the Universe itself.
We are, each one of us, ultimately, one.

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Endless Worlds Beckon

“I’ve sometimes wondered”, Enoch said, “if the stars are other suns, might there not be other planets and other people, too”…

“You believe that?” asked the stranger.

Enoch said, “It was just an idle notion.”

“Not so idle,” said the stranger. “There are other planets and there are other people. I am one of them.”

Clifford D. Simak, Way Station (1963)

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