Anyone else think it is odd – we discover a strange new class of super Earth (perhaps capable of supporting alien life?) and then Kepler goes into emergency mode when it is to start its new method for searching for life for a period of months…and then miraculously comes out of emergency mode and we are none the wiser!
Sounds like somebody didn’t want to be seen and turned it off for a few!!
Okay, perhaps not. Actually this new sort of ‘Super Earth’ refers to a class of exoplanets whose atmospheres have been seared away by heat.
Theorists previously had conjectured that exoplanets cozied up to their host stars would be subject to erosion of the atmosphere by high-energy radiation and it turns out they were right. In fact data collected gives them observational evidence of what is now fact.
There is an interest in observing these planets as it is possible they foretell our future and a hellish end to Earth. Over the next billion years the Sun will grow hotter and brighter and the extra radiation will start to cook the organic matter of Earth, eventually boiling away the oceans and rendering the entire surface of the Earth uninhabitable.
One can’t be positive that all will be stripped away but now that we are able to view examples all over our galaxy of this ‘new’ class of Super Earths, there is mounting evidence that Earth’s end is biblical in nature!
So if the new Super Earth’s were not worried about being seen who might have been?
Kepler has provided the 1000’s of exo-planets through a technique that looks for periodic dimming of the parent star’s light. I am referring of course to planet transits when in front of its parent star’s disk. As the suspect planet passes in front of its parent star the observed brightness then dims in the area of the planet. (Quick example; a car is facing you in the dark, its bright lights are on. A person walks between you and the car. You will see a dimming of the lights where the person is.)
BUT now for a few months this method has been paused while a new method is executed – the ‘K2 Campaign 9’ or more basically, observing any gravitational microlensing events with K2 and from Earth in order to see a parallax effect in the shape and time of the lensing event… Translate to English?
Consider instead of looking at a planet moving in front of its star, look at a star moving in front of a more distant star. How can you distinguish what light is from which star? The light from the star that is more distant is bent by the gravitational pull of the star in front of it. This effect is called gravitational lensing. For instance; take a wine glass place it over a spot on your table cloth – I’m sure you have one! Look at it through the glass part on the table, then pull it away – not the same are they? Back to the lensing; . as the star in the foreground moves in front of the distant star the magnified image of the distant star gets brighter, reaches a peak and then gets dimmer in a smooth way.
Anyway, it is this campaign that will be used for a limited time; now even more limited due to the brief system shutdown. (The reason for the specific timeframe that cannot be extended – our galactic center – the region in question, will no longer be in view after July 1.)
Think about it, there are no real coincidences!