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Looking for Mr. LGM

You have to be amazed at the astronomers’ ability to analyze variations in the position of a distant star and deduce the size of a planet revolving around it.  Naturally, this involves a lot of assumptions.

Even more amazing is that they’ve surveyed quite a few stars in the Milky Way galaxy and have identified which ones have planets around them of a certain size and temperature.

And even more amazing than that, they’ve used this information to figure out about how many stars in the entire galaxy would be similar to Earth in size and temperature. Temperature is important because it tells astronomers which planets might have liquid water on them.

And for the final act of amazement, they’ve supplied us with the actual number. They estimate there are up to 64 billion planets in the Milky Way with the potential to be sorta-kinda Earth-like. Or maybe only 10 billion, depending on whose article you read.  They know this because of the number of so-called red dwarf stars there are, what percentage of them have exoplanets, etc.

You should know that astronomers don’t “directly image” planets.  That’s their phrase for what they can figure out without actually seeing what they’re talking about.  They perform the amazing feat of deducing that a red dwarf has a planet because the star itself appears to wobble in place.

At that point, I confess myself all taxed out on amazement… almost to the point of being the tiniest mite skeptical. It could all be true, I guess.  Maybe.

The agenda is the search for other intelligent life in the universe. Assuming anything like that exists on this planet, it’s assumed that it came about because the presence of water made atoms sort themselves into critters. The critters inexplicably acquired the ability to reproduce and modify themselves in ever-improving versions. The astronomers are hoping to show that this magic might have happened elsewhere. The point of the planet-counting exercise is to argue that, given the number of possibilities, it verily must have. There’s just gotta be some ETs out there yearning to tell us their secrets.

Now for the spoiler.  No life-creating event has ever been observed by people on this planet or any of the exo-planets.  When you get down to the hard-headed science of describing what people have actually observed, the hosannas about ETs go quiet.  Attaboy on discovering planet wobble, guys.  But seriously, that’s all you can rightfully claim and still retain the honored title of scientist.

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