Today a serious scientific discussion of ‘exo-planets’, but first a quick reminder about Towel Day, which is just around the corner.
Towel Day is celebrated every year on 25 May as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams by his fans. On this day, fans carry a towel with them to demonstrate their appreciation for the books and the author, as referred to in Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held in 2001, two weeks after Adams’ death on 11 May 2001.
OK, now back to (breaking) news, which is that NASA’s Kepler space telescope mission is ending due to a malfunction in a gizmo that keeps the telescope properly pointed. Kepler was launched in March 2009, and has been cataloging the fraction of stars in the galaxy that harbor Earth-like planets.
In the spirit of total disclosure, I have mixed feelings about the mission.
On the plus side the spacecraft has identified 130 planets and 2,740 other candidates for future study. Of these, 230 are about the same size as our Earth, so maybe we are not alone in The Universe. Whether we are alone in The Universe is not something that keeps me awake at night, but hey, it’s always nice to discover new things.
On the minus side, one of Kepler’s major discoveries was,
… four massive exoplanets … including one whose amazingly low density has given it the nickname “Styrofoam World.”
While at first blush this doesn’t sound like a ‘minus’, consider that on my list of things which drive me completely nuts, the #2 offender is Styrofoam Peanuts used to pack small items in large boxes. Open a box containing this dreck, and your living space is instantly contaminated, and you can spend an insane amount of time cleaning them up. The thought of a planet the size of Jupiter made up of Styrofoam Peanuts is something that could keep me awake at night. Aaarrrggghhh.
So, for me the mission is, at best, a push.
If Douglas Adams were still alive, he would write something about this that would make me smile.
In the meantime, all I can do for solace is carry my towel on May 25th.
By the way, the #1 thing that drives me completely nuts are glued-on price tags that cannot be removed when you get home.