Planets get easier to see

I was dumbfounded and appalled last year by the Christian Astronomer who stated that, in the whole universe there were no other planets like Earth that could sustain life because we haven’t found an earth-like planet yet. Actually, we haven’t examined the whole universe yet and never will. We haven’t examined our whole galaxy yet, and we know that there are hundreds of millions of galaxies. We haven’t examined the local arm of this galaxy. In fact, we are currently unable to detect a planet as small of the earth around another sun. So far, most of the planets we’ve found have been very large ones that move their stars a tiny bit as they orbit. So that’s like saying that sand doesn’t exist on any beach or desert in the world because our colander has only collected gravel from our playground’s sandbox. Reality-challenged pontificaters aside, however, the search for planets continues.

Apodizing Phase Plate coronagraph

A new and very simple technique, blocking the glare from the star being examined, makes it easier for us to see planets. Science fiction has had the technique of automatically blocking glaring suns from their view screens on the fly for years now, but today we have it in reality. The new device is called an Apodizing Phase Plate. It lets researchers look much closer to stars. It should help us to find Earth-sized planets, the smaller denser planets close to a sun. Hooray for science!


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