Number of Known Planets Practically Doubles in One Week, and the Response is… Yawns?

We are so ridiculously jaded, people.  Two days ago, NASA announced that the Kepler Mission had found 715 new planets.  Seven hundred fifteen entire planets that we previously didn’t know existed.  It’s been about twenty years since we found the first exoplanet (planet outside our solar system), and in the intervening time 961 confirmed exoplanets were found.  So in a single announcement, the number of known planets in the universe increased almost twofold, and while the major news outlets picked up the story, it was pretty much no big deal.  Ho hum.  Move on, there’s stuff going on with Justin Bieber and the Oscars.

Check out the graph:

From NASA’s Digital Press Kit: “The histogram shows the number of planet discoveries by year for roughly the past two decades of the exoplanet search. The blue bar shows previous planet discoveries, the red bar shows previous Kepler planet discoveries, the gold bar displays the 715 new planets verified by multiplicity.” Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI/J Rowe

This is really huge!  It’s exciting.  It’s a step towards finding out if there are other habitable planets out there.  It’s proof that the Kepler mission is worth every penny and then some.  It’s amazing technology and tremendous discovery.  For a society that’s totally dependent on – and centered around, and often obsessed with – science and technology, we are awfully nonchalant about this grand new advancement in knowledge.

I encourage you to check it out, and watch the video if you have a few minutes.  More importantly, step outside and stare up at the stars with a little bit of wonder tonight.  Think about just how big the discovery of 715 whole planets really is.  We don’t even know that much yet about the one planet we live on.  There is so unbelievably much more out there to discover and learn about.  Our entire solar system, which we just recently managed to even send something outside of, only has eight qualifying planets.  We just found nearly a hundred times that in one fell swoop.  There’s a big, impressive, amazing universe full of mystery out there and it’s only going to get more exciting the more we learn about it.

What do you think about the discovery and our exploration efforts?  What else do you hope we will find out there?  Why do you think this got so little attention and what does it say about us?


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Filed under Geeking out, Opinion pieces

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