Galileo constructed his astronomical spy-glasses on 1609. The following year, he discovered satellites of Jupiter: tiny specks moving around the bright surface of the huge planet. Not even by a daunting stretch of imagination could he have surmised that exactly 400 years later – in 2009- there would be a sophisticated telescope launch by humans in the dark skies beyond earth’s atmosphere which would be scanning with extraordinary penetration the depths of the space between Cygnus and Lyra, and report back its findings to earthling astronomers. He could never have guessed that such an instrument, named after his astronomer colleague of the times Johannes Kepler, would reveal to us the existence of planets whirling around distant stars. In fact, that’s exactly what has happened. It would have been unimaginable, and sounded incredible, to Galileo that this Kepler is keeping watch not on a hundred or a thousand stars, but on 150,000 of them.
Lo and behold, it has been sending data to astronomers which, when appropriately interpreted, reveal the existence stars and planets. Recently it revealed what astronomers suspect to be a earth-like planet whirling around a star that is 560 light ears away from us. It looks like this very heavy planet is very close to a very hot and very old star, making it an extremely hot planet. Of course this is not the first extra-solar exoplanet to be discovered During the past few three decades scores have them have been detected: more than 500 have been confirmed to be exoplanets while another 500 plus spots are waiting to be confirmed as such.
Who don’t know exactly what’s happening out there in that vast stretch of space where zillions of stars are moving helter-skelter, some with planets such as we have detected, and some perhaps hosting life of other kinds, maybe mute and moronic, maybe extraordinarily sophisticated, much more knowledgeable than our greatest scientists, much more creative than our greatest writers and composers and artists, and much, much wiser than our greatest prophets!
Or it could be that those appearances reveal but dead rocks, spinning earth-like in their pristine forms, conserving little more than angular momentum, condemned to no more than eonian existence with none of the music and magic that come with the throb or life.
February 11, 2011