NASA scientists have discovered Kepler 22b, a new planet or super earth. But do we have means to ascertain or make a definite claim about it asks M Sundaram?
NASA’s new finding, Kepler 22b has made people sit up and take notice. This is a planet that NASA says may support the life and vegetation. Though it may take decades or centuries in making things more clear about Kepler 22b as many analysts have said that saying something definite about some planet as far away as 600 light years away is well nigh impossible, people are overjoyed with the finding.
For many of us, the distance of 600 light years may be very difficult to comprehend. One light year away if measured in our kilometer term is at least 10 trillion kilometers away from our earth. So you can ‘easily’ calculate as to how many years it may take to actually take you to that super planet that NASA scientists are talking about.
A reader has sent this sarcastic response, “Interesting discovery! What did it cost the American taxpayer for NASA to make this discovery? What do they really expect to learn from their telescopic observations? Think about this: The planet is 600 light years away (folks, that is 3,526,800,000,000,000 miles); it is reported that it would take 20 million years to reach the planet, which would indicate a required sustained average of 22,315 mph to get there. Sorry, but the whole space exploration operation begs the question: What have we really learned that will benefit us, and ad what cost?
But most of the people seem very happy to know that the planet looks like earth and may be the first planet to support vegetation.
With the new finding, NASA may silence many a voices that were seeking further slashing of its funding. Kepler mission has reportedly discovered as many as more than 1200 planets, but this is the first one that it claims may support vegetation. Kepler Mission or NASA Discovery mission number 10, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.
Kepler has been very intricately designed to detect stars millions of kilometers away. When a planet crosses in front of its star as viewed by an observer, the event is called a transit. Transits by terrestrial planets produce a small change in a star’s brightness of about 1/10,000 (100 parts per million, ppm), lasting for 2 to 16 hours. This change must be absolutely periodic if it is caused by a planet. In addition, all transits produced by the same planet must be of the same change in brightness and last the same amount of time, thus providing a highly repeatable signal and robust detection method.
A NASA report says, “Once detected, the planet’s orbital size can be calculated from the period (how long it takes the planet to orbit once around the star) and the mass of the star using Kepler’s Third Law of planetary motion. The size of the planet is found from the depth of the transit (how much the brightness of the star drops) and the size of the star”.
But it is clear that most of the findings of such missions are speculative and there is a whole lot of assumptions playing into it. So don’t be very ecstatic. It is just an assumption that there is some planet that may support human life. We are sooooooooo far away from having right technology to find anything worthwhile about it.