Saturday, July 24, 2010

'More Than 100 Earth-Like Planets' Found? Well, No: Not Really

"Claims of 100 Earth-Like Planets Not True" (July 22, 2010)

"Despite overzealous news headlines this week, NASA's Kepler spacecraft has not indentified [!] more than 100 Earth-like planets in the galaxy.

"The planet-hunting telescope, launched in April 2009, has so far confirmed only five alien planets beyond the solar system, mission scientists told

"The erroneous reports of new planets were generated in response to a recent videotaped speech Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov gave at a TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) conference in July.

" 'More than 100 "Earth-like" planets discovered in past few weeks,' read the headline of a Wednesday article in the U.K.'s Daily Mail newspaper. The Observer, another U.K. paper, also reported the finding.

"However, Sasselov was referencing only possible planets among the Kepler data, scientists said...."

- - - Which is why I didn't write a post about this REMARKABLE! STUNNING! EPICALLY AMAZING! discovery, when those headlines popped up.

Sure, it'd be cool if a whole bunch of 'class M' planets dropped out of the Kepler data - and then the U.S.S. Enterprise arrived to beam up some scientists for a ride to the new worlds.

Not likely, though.

The article briefly describes the sort of information we are getting. I think it's impressive: but I've been following astronomy, planetary sciences, and space exploration for - probably longer than most of those journalists have been alive.

And, I pay attention to what people say and write: the actual words they use, and what they mean. That made me a pretty good researcher/writer: but kept me from reporting ASTOUNDING! COLOSSAL! events, when none had happened.

This "More than 100 'Earth-like' planets discovered" SNAFU is a case in point, for why it's a good idea to read well past the headlines - and then start researching, to see what real events inspired the journalist.

Today's Information Age technologies make that a whole lot easier than it was, back in my 'good old days.' At that's another topic or two. Maybe three.

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