The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 8th: There’s Someplace Like Home?

Kepler-22b

Kepler-22-b - "Goldilocks" Planet? (Artist's rendering provided by NASA)

Nasa’s Kepler telescope, whose specific mission is to explore strange new worlds – er, uh, to seek out possible Earth-like planets, has already discovered more than 1000 new exoplanets (outside of our solar system.) One planet, which made news earlier this year, was dubbed “Tatooine”, as it revolves around twin suns. The Planet Habitability Laboratory has an online catalogue of such discoveries, and a current update now lists Kepler-22-b, featured as part of the First Kepler Scientific Conference.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the popular astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, had met the team of NASA scientists at Ames Research Center earlier this week. In an interview with The Weather Channel, Dr. Tyson stated that Kepler-22-b “is the first Earth-like planet in a Goldilocks zone around a sun-like star. This one hits a check in every box.” Exciting news, indeed. Unfortunately, Kepler-22-b is 600 light-years from Earth, and as Dr. Tyson says, “The fastest spacecraft we have ever launched would take 50,000 years to get to Kepler-22b.”  When asked in The Weather Channel interview, “Given the population explosion and impact on the environment, would inhabiting another planet give humankind a chance to start over?“, Dr. Tyson responded:

“After we mess up this planet go move to another one? If you had the power to move to another planet then you’ve got the power to fix your own planet. I’m much more in favor of thinking of other planets as a place to expand to, not a place to escape to because we’ve trashed Earth…don’t think of it as an escape hatch.”

Damn! I was really hoping that the science of cryogenics might advance enough within my lifetime that I could be frozen, then sent to Kepler-22-b and thawed in order to request political asylum from any ‘overlords’ there may be on this possible new home.