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Friday, May 09, 2008

Kepler's Eye

The Kepler NASA Mission, due to launch in 2009, will place a telescope in solar orbit specifically to look for near earth sized planets orbiting other nearby stars. This has to be (in my book) the singularly most exciting development in our exploration of the Cosmos since our decision to send humans to Mars. Please do visit the Kepler web site here.

For all of you (including myself) who want to participate in a small but significant way, NASA is offering an unlimited opportunity for the public to place their names and short messages on a DVD that will be launched with the telescope. This is what I have said ...

Kepler will open up the possibility of detecting earth-sized extrasolar planets. The scientific, social, cultural, spiritual and (eventually) economic implications of this new Copernican endeavour cannot be underestimated.

So long as humans think of themselves and their world as unique they will remain impoverished and myopic in the Cosmos. Evidence of earth-like planets will translate a well founded supposition into reality. The resultant transformation in understanding of our place in the Cosmos could, arguably, both unite humankind and provide that necessary spur to move offworld and explore.

May we not repeat the same mistakes in the Cosmos as we have on earth but rather develop those finest and highest qualities of which our species is so eminently capable. I am a theist, so may God "make it so."

Revd. Fr. Gregory Hallam

7 comments:

Dave Darling said...

For me, the critical issue is how many (if any) of these terrestrial-type planets are inhabited. I'd be really surprised if Kepler failed to find a cosmic bucketload of Earth-sized worlds out there. With Kepler's catalogue of rocky planets in hand we'll be able to begin a close scrutiny of the atmospheres of these objects to see if they are really "other Earths" in the sense of having biospheres. Already scientists have been able to confirm the existence of methane and water vapor on at least one (large) extrasolar world. The same spectroscopic techniques will soon be turned on Kepler's Earth candidates. What will they find? If it is life of some sort, that will be remarkable because we'll know that we're not alone in the universe. If all the rocky worlds beyond the solar system prove barren then that will also be astonishing because we'll need to ask what makes the Earth unique. A further question, of course, is, if we do find life, how much of it has become intelligent.

Father Gregory said...

I have come to an interim provisional conclusion that the most likely explanation for both the pervasiveness of life and the apparent absence of signs of galactic intelligence is that whereas life in the Cosmos is itself probably abundant, intelligent, communicating and technologically capable life is not. After all it took over 4 billion years in one solar system for a rather special hominid to evolve to make that observation .... assuming that is that history hasn't obliterated others who have gone before us and passed into oblivion.

Doorman-Priest said...

If "they" are looking at us, do they consider this intelligent life?

Father Gregory said...

There is the "Zoo Theory" solution to Fermi's Paradox ("Why aren't they here?") ... we are so embarrassingly backward we are in quarantine. One day when we are smart enough we shall be allowed to join the Galactic Club.

Doorman-Priest said...

"They" have a point.

Anonymous said...

There is the "Zoo Theory" solution to Fermi's Paradox ("Why aren't they here?") ... we are so embarrassingly backward we are in quarantine. One day when we are smart enough we shall be allowed to join the Galactic Club.

Father, Surely this theory can't be consistent with God becoming fully human because if we are embarrassingly backward then so is God.

Tom

Father Gregory said...

Why is our alleged backwardness God's problem rather than ours? We have freewill. If we mess up we only have ourselves to blame.

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