Thursday, November 13, 2008

Earth, Say Hi to Fomalhaut B

The first images of an extraterrestrial planet have been obtained.
The achievement, the result of years of effort on improved observational techniques and better data analysis, presages more such discoveries, the experts said, and will open the door to new investigations and discoveries of what planets are and how they came to be formed.
This is a big deal.

When you can image a planet, you can get its spectrum. One day, not too far in the future, we will obtain the spectrum of a planet and there will be free oxygen lines in it. How different will the world be when we know that there is life on another planet, circling another star? Will we feel compelled to send probes there, irrespective of the cost? Or will this just become yet another datum in the panoply of wonders that is our modern world.

The economy sucks. We're embroiled in a low-intensity world war. Our politics is about to undergo the biggest upheaval since 1981, maybe since 1932. But we can still do... this.

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