Dan Rattiner's Stories

Nine More Earths: New Planets Could Sustain Life

The people running the Kepler space telescope announced last Tuesday that, as a result of looking still further into space, they have found nine more planets in the universe that could support life as we know it. They circle a sun that gives off heat but is not too hot nor too cold, they have mountains and valleys, they are about our size, and they have the conditions on them necessary for air and water.

This increases the number of possibly habitable planets in the universe to 21. And of course, with more powerful telescopes still to come, this number will continue to rise.

“This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth,” said NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan.

I well remember when scientists first told us there might be another planet like ours out there. It electrified the nation. Here we were, all alone, hurtling around through the dark, cold and lonely vacuum of the universe. There were quadrillions of stars. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a planet out there like ours? We could send messages back and forth, shout out hellos and hi neighbor, talk to them about the meaning of life, the tools they used, the things they ate, the art and poetry they had drawn and written, and what strategies they had come up with to cope with the same loneliness that all us creatures—thinking creatures who are aware of their existence—have to suffer with.

We did two things about this back then. We put up a telescope and a radio broadcasting station atop the tallest mountain in Puerto Rico to broadcast a greeting of beeps to those “out there” that could be responded to. And we fashioned a small metal medallion that had the famous drawing of da Vinci’s male nude with his arms and legs outstretched to define a circle—yup, that was us—and we fired this metal medallion and lots of others exactly like it on small rockets (that’s all we had at the time) to nowhere in particular, just out there.

Nothing came of those efforts. But now there is THIS. Our current problem is going to be who we decide to “friend” on Facebook. We don’t want to leave anybody special out. But then we don’t want any bad people messing things up. You know how it is.

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