360-38,000

More gloom, more hope.  This post is about hope.

Okay, but what’s with the weird numbers in the title.  Any guesses?

The Cowboy loves new frontiers.  (That’s a hint.)

1022

(That’s another hint. And the pic is a hint too.)

Give up?

That last number is an estimate by Alan Boss, of the Carnegie Institution for Science, of the potential number of Earth-like planets in the universe.  That’s the number one with 22 zeros after it.

The first set of numbers (360-38,000) is an estimate by Duncan Forgan of the University of Edinburgh, of the number of life forms so far that are capable of interstellar communications.

As this good article by Clive Cookson at the FT explains, the search for exoplanets has gained a lot of traction lately.  Exoplanets are planets outside our solar system.  To date, humanity has discovered 340 exoplanets in our galaxy – all of these since 1995.  Yes, this is very new stuff.  Tonight America’s NASA will launch a new space telescope designed to increase the number of exoplanets on our planet-watching logbook and more specifically, to find ones that aren’t just big gaseous blobs, like our friends Saturn and Jupiter, but rather, are rocky and watery places that could sustain life.

In the article, Cookson also gives us a refresher on our Kepler, and who couldn’t use that every once in a while.  If it weren’t for our dear Johannes, we might still think we’re just going ’round and ’round in circles.  Thanks to him we know we’re actually going ’round and ’round in ellipses.  Ain’t that a relief.

Pretty heady stuff.  I hope you’ll join the Cowboy in wishing the Kepler telescope godspeed.

Is anybody out there?

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Published in: on March 6, 2009 at 15:39  Comments Off on 360-38,000  
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