The Intrigue of Kepler-22bDec 08, 2011
Why do we care about a new planet? NASA's Kepler mission has discovered more than 1,000 new planets that fall within the range of a "habitable zone", but 22b looks most promising. This planet is 2.4 times the radius of Earth and the enduring question is, "Could there be life out there?" Certainly a worthy question, but a sobering reality about 22b is that at 600 light-years away, it will take 22 million years to reach it. (Under current methods of space travel.) So what is the intrigue? It could be that in addition to the human desire to explore, to stretch one's limits, there might also be a motivating consideration based on the conditions of our own planet. Think about it:
- The global community is wrestling with issues of climate change as well as unusual weather patterns that are altering food commodities around the world.
- The economic integration of the EU is threatening the recovery that was begun in the U.S. in the fall of 2008.
- Hotspots in problematic regions may spark into wars with radiating effects on neighboring states.
- After a decade of U.S. military presence, Afghanistan appears more fragile than ever before.
- Nuclear power has unleashed a myriad of issues necessitating international action.
- And the political system in the U.S. has degraded to a level of sclerotic malaise.
Let's face it; we have a lot of work to do here on Earth. The prospect of another habitable planet is indeed intriguing. But we need to summon the collective courage and will to remedy the serious ills that plague the planet we call home. At 22 million years away, Kepler-22b is not a likely option if and when we find our home to be inhabitable or inhospitable. This December, before the end of the year, what can you do to improve your community?
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