Greatest Poll Ever To Start On March 5th

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 23:00

As a lover of both polls and space travel, I wanted to move off-topic for a moment and let people know that the greatest poll of all time will go into the field at 10:48 p.m. eastern, on Thursday, March 5th. It is a new sattelite called The Kepler mission, which is NASA's first major attempt to find Earth-like planets around stars other than our own. By continually monitoring the light produced by 100,000 stars in a distant area of the galaxy, and by utilizing the transit method of extrasolar planet detection, functionally it is a poll that will provide us with a statistically sound sampling of solar systems in our galaxy. Specifically, the Kepler mission aims to accomplish all of the following:

  1. Determine how many terrestrial and larger planets there are in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of spectral types of stars
  2. Determine the range of sizes and shapes of the orbits of these planets
  3. Estimate how many planets there are in multiple-star systems
  4. Determine the range of orbit size, brightness, size, mass and density of short-period giant planets
  5. Identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques
  6. Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems

While Kepler will not be monitoring stars within even 1,000 light years of our own, and thus won't be detecting any Earth-like planets with which we could ever hope to communicate, it will let us know what we can expect to find in all solar systems other than our own, including those systems closest to us. This makes it, in my opinion, the greatest poll of all-time.

After Kepler, the search for nearby exoplanets will really heat up with projects like The James Webb Space Telescope and the EU's Darwin Mission. It honestly seems possible that we will know, within the next twenty years, whether or not there are Earth-like planets in any neighboring solar systems. If there are intelligent civilizations on any of those planets, it is unlikely that any of us will be alive to take part in conversations with that civilization. Still, this is an amazing feat, and at least one reason to be excited about the future.

Chris Bowers :: Greatest Poll Ever To Start On March 5th

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As long as Scott Rasmussen isn't in charge of the program... (4.00 / 1)
...this will be a great thing!  You know that Rasmussen would skew the likely planet samples to favor conservative star systems...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

He is part of the rebel alliance and a traitor take him away (4.00 / 1)
Sorry, I'm a nerd, I know.

[ Parent ]
The more you crush your grip, Rasmussen... (4.00 / 1)
...the more star systems will slip through your fingers!

I'm a geek, too! ;-)

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
Love this (4.00 / 1)
This is the kind of space exploration I love. Fairly inexpensive unmanned science missions. I don't care about whether astronauts can drink their own pee (and maintaining the huge cost of life support for such missions). I want lots of pure science robotic missions instead.

the exciting thing abuot (4.00 / 1)
the proposed Terrestrial Planet Finder or Darwin is that it would not only be able to detect planets like Venus/Earth, but it would obtain spectral information about the atmopshere.  Thus, we would know about the presence of oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane, etc.  That would tell us something about whether or not there is a biosphere like Earth or not (like Venus, Mars.)  Although technically challenging, I think these missions should be a top priority for astronomy.  TPF seems to be dead for now sadly.

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Only real competitor for "Greatest Poll Ever" that I can think of would be Judgment Day. (0.00 / 0)
Every human ever gets asked, "Do You Know Me?", and thence to eternal life or damnation.  Definitely a Great Poll.

Of course, I don't believe in that stuff.  But I can't think of anything that's real that can contest with your Greatest Poll Ever claim.  

Mmmm, some kind of global species census would be greater.  Or maybe not; this is extraterrestrial life we're talking about, although this poll in particular won't likely resolve that matter on its own.  Greatest Poll Yet then, with an upcoming superior SETI poll being the actual Greatest Poll Ever.

Doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?  ;-)

global species census (0.00 / 0)
I can imagine a surreal Borgesian agency, tasked with finding out every single fact about every individual on the planet, and feeding it into a vast database that gradually grows to be as complex as human civilization itself.

Oh wait, that's just Google. Never mind.

[ Parent ]
Let's see, it was an Asimov short story (0.00 / 0)
where the single mega-computer Multivac eventually knew everything, turned humanity into its pet, and then had to sculpt us to a more peaceful state so that the other supercomputers on the other planets would allow it to keep us.  We didn't even get to know about the other planets until after the re-fashioning of civilization was done, cause we weren't yet fit to meet the company.

[ Parent ]
There's a variant in Hitchhiker's Guide (0.00 / 0)
Wowbagger the infinitely prolonged, with the mission to insult every living creature in the universe.

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[ Parent ]
Imagine if all these years, (4.00 / 2)
we had invested the money we have spent on waging war into space and science instead.  Our politicians make me ill.  The greatness that could exist and doesn't.  

space (4.00 / 1)
One obstacle to cutting back our ridiculously large military budget is that thousands of people in hundreds of congressional districts depend upon it for their jobs.  So why not transition their duties to a newly-invigorated space program?

[ Parent ]
my kids are obsessed with the solar system (0.00 / 0)
right now and will be very excited about this. (By the way, if you have kids I recommend the audio CD "When is a planet not a planet? The story of Pluto." Great way for kids to learn not just about Pluto, but about how understanding grows with scientists building on each other's work and revising theories as new information becomes available.)

Though we may not live to communicate with other worlds, think of how far and fast the human race has come in its understanding of space. This year is the 400th anniversary of some of Galileo's important work and the 40th year since men walked on the moon.

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Yeah, but (0.00 / 0)
how many jobs will it create? ;)

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

Conversations at the slow speed of light (0.00 / 0)
would not make good tv. What's needed is instantaneous communication over infinite distances. The way we communicate with God. But communicating with God is boring, it's all stuff one knows. Now if we could tap that resource for person to person communication, first planetarily then inter-planetarily, then we'd have something.

Jeff Wegerson

this is great (0.00 / 0)
the field of astronomy has been so exciting recently.


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