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The Kepler Telescope in space is discovering new planets almost too fast to keep track of. And observatories on Earth like Keck and Subaru on Mauna Kea are confirming the findings and adding additional information about the stars these planets orbit.
Now we are even hearing about exoplanets roughly the size of Earth, even some in habitable zones around their mother star.
This heady burst of discovery reminded me of a painting I did many years ago, decades before the first exoplanets were found.
I was inspired by Stephen Dole’s book Planets for Man that suggested how planets might form and how Earthlike planets might be abundant in the Milky Way Galaxy. I was also thinking of Olaf Stapledon’s visionary suggestion in Starmaker that “a constant stream of touring worlds [was} percolating through the Galaxy.”
And why limit exploration to just our Universe? In my painting a fleet of Earthlike planets is emerging from a supermassive wormhole into another Universe. Of course they have brought a little of their own spacetime with them to buffer any adverse effects from a different cosmos.
Compared to that, Kepler’s recent discoveries are practically down the street. That’s literally true if you consider our little Orion Arm as a small side street in a megalopolis of stars. The field of view of Kepler is looking “upgalaxy” along the spiral arm, looking towards our Orion Arm’s intersection with the much larger Sagittarius Arm.
The Galaxy Garden provides a useful way of visualizing Kepler’s discoveries. A 3-foot long section of 1” plastic PVC pipe scales to one kiloparsec, Kepler’s range at the approximate aperture of the field of view of the telescope.
This short length of pipe gives these planets a context. They are only one footstep away in the Galaxy Garden. From Earth you can almost reach out and touch them (if your arms are a kiloparsec long) At 600 and 1000 light years the two most promising star systems are close neighbors on our little arm of the Milky Way.
NEW YEAR SPECIAL Purchase any of Jon’s art pieces and receive his DVD: “ A Message from Earth: The Voyager Record”