December 5

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered an Earth-like planet with balmy 70-degree temperatures: “Kepler-22b”.  The plant is 2.4 times the diameter of Earth, and orbits its sun in 290 days.

But we won’t be visiting anytime soon, as the planet is 600 light years away.  How far is 600 light years?  Well, consider that light travels 186,287 miles each second.  Now multiply 186,287 miles times the number of seconds in 600 years.  Whew!

Scientists have pointed the 42 dish antennas that comprise California’s Allen Telescope Array on Kepler-22b to see if it can detect any radio waves — to perhaps catch a Keplerian broadcast of “Dancing with the Stars” (sorry — couldn’t resist that).

Something to think about:  If scientists on Kepler-22b were scanning Earth for radio or TV broadcasts, they wouldn’t hear anything.  Radio waves travel at the speed of light.  So, they’d be examining Earth as it was 600 years ago — and radio was invented here less than 150 years ago.

For additional details about this planetary discovery, including a video of the mission managers discussing their find, check out the following article in the San Jose Mercury News:

Artist’s conception courtesy of NASA / Ames/ JPL-Caltech