Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Executing the EXOs


Calling all Kepler fans! Anyone who keeps up with the search for habitable planets through the Kepler Mission or Exoplanets.org will truly enjoy this set of visual features at InformationIsBeautiful.Net.

EXOPLANETSClick to see page with Original

This has fast become one of my favorite websites; every time I see someone twitter or link to a new diagram, graph or picture at IIB.net, it truly captivates me... and then I wind up being on that website for hours.

The chaps who worked on the exoplanets charts conducted complex research, listing, scaling, plotting, and lastly included descriptions, even including the telescopic techniques by which each planet was found! The progression of all their additions is fascinating, though of course now that Kepler has found 500+ more planets in 2011, I hope they are hard at work on another that shows the explosion of recent findings.

I particularly liked the part where they remembered to pull back and show the small grid, specifying what a TINY portion of the Milky Way Galaxy has actually been examined for exoplanets. Talk about putting things in perspective!

Area of the Milky Way surveyed by Earthlings to date

One thing I thought would be valuable would be to start giving these celestial bodies actual names -- or even having contests in elementary schools to propose names, to get children interested in the planet-hunting process.

Once the planets have actual names, it's better than "2847927-KJ" or whatever. Kids will more effectively remember that Planet Bajorran-2 has rock rainstorms, or Planet Shadow has a "hot ice" core... and we should deviate from the numbers unless we're creating databases.

Name the suckers! Seriously, let's start acting like we do live in the Star Trek 'verse!