Barack Obama to be president when a second Earth is discovered

Friday, November 14, 2008

Artist's Impression of Gliese 581 c, a planet recently discovered that shows how close we are getting to being able to discover a planet our size.

Interesting thought: assuming that no Earth-sized planets are announced today by Hubble or discovered during the next few months, it's likely that the discovery will be made while Barack Obama is president. That is, assuming that the Kepler Mission goes as planned. One or more discoveries of extrasolar Earths by that mission may happen around 2011-2012, there are extrasolar observations being made by a huge number of other observatories and missions (Corot for example is a recent addition), and if he wins a second term the chance is even higher that he'll be in the Oval Office when the world wakes up one day to the announcement that another planet has been discovered in another solar system, the same size as ours, perhaps with life and very likely inhabitable if we can just get to it.

There's a pretty good graph here showing the number of exoplanets discovered per year, but units of single years don't seem to be large enough to give a good idea of how progress is accelerating in this field, so I doubled it to two years to give a better idea:

The bar on the right includes 2007 and 2008, and since 2008 isn't over yet it'll actually be a bit larger than that still. For the number of discoveries made during Barack Obama's presidency, imagine two more bars to the right of those increasing at the same rate, and another two after that if he is reelected in 2012. The current extrasolar planet count now stands at 322.


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