Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Habitable Exoplanet Discovered by Mid-2011?

That's the prediction in a forthcoming PLOSOne paper. Wow. H/T Tyler Cowen. Note that habitable doesn't necessarily mean oxygen atmosphere to these authors; understood that they want to build a model based on frequency and distance-from-star at which planets are being discovered, and there's no data to put in the model anyway. Still, an atmosphere is important if you want to call a place habitable.

More importantly: let's say it's August 2011, and it's happened. What government is going to justify spending money to send probes there? None of us is going to live to see the data. I hope we go, but there's a whole different kind of political problem between watching a moon landing, and watching probes slip off into the interstellar darkness forever, at least from the viewpoint of those currently living.

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