Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Lispian
of Stars and Planets

I’ve long had a fascination for astronomy. And, truth be told, it was the field of study I was hoping to enter. But European familial demands meant going into something that had a better chance of me getting a job. Besides, my dad said that no son of his was going to stay up all hours of the night staring through a telescope. No problem. He got a son who stays up all hours of the night staring at a computer screen. Oh, the irony. But I am employed, and I probably would have been as an astronomer, too. No matter.

Of late I’ve been reading the news regarding discoveries of new planets. Fascinating stuff, to be honest. A tinge of jealousy strikes me with each passing article. But I choose to live this life of an astronomer vicariously. If I can’t do it myself, I can at least stay up on things sort of. I haven’t the hours to do so properly, maybe when I retire I’ll revisit it more fully but that is many years away.

The most interesting thing about these planetary discoveries around those far flung stars is that most — if not all — of the star systems seem to be very unlike our own. They have odd planets, huge gas giants, gas giants close to their primaries, etc. Not many seem to have planets that are fit for the type of life we’re accustomed to that requires the right distance from the primary for liquid water to exist and a reasonable temperature range.

I do hope things change, but the more I watch the news reports the more I wonder if maybe Sol System is rather unique. Maybe Drake’s equation is way off. Maybe most stars have planets but most have systems that are so unlike ours that they have no hope of harbouring complex life. Maybe instead of Sagan’s millions of possible Earths there are but a handful. All the more pity for those of us with a fondness for SF or a desire to communicate with other intelligences.

Today, on the Astronomy Picture of the Day, you can find a little animation of the latest discovery HD 10180. 5 planets. Impressive. Even if complex life there is unlikely.

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August 2010
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