Mature Focus E Edition Page 4

4 September 2015 Mature Focus The picture on my computer desktop is of (wait for it...) Earth. Yeah, I know, it's boring, it's noth- ing to brag about, it's not sexy, it's just part of Apple's stock back- ground pictures and I just never bother to change it. Some people's pictures will fea- ture children, pets, vacation desti- nations and some even rotate so a new image appears every few sec- onds. Mine stays the same. It never moves. It never changes. I'm even ashamed to admit that I have a friend who displays oiled- up muscle-bound WWE wrestlers on his desktop while pictures of his wife and kids sit off to the side. It may be time for a new picture, now that scientists have discovered a new planet similar in size to Earth. Named Kepler-452b, it's already been dubbed Earth 2.0. Editors note: The following pas- sage is the scientific portion of this month's column. There will be a test later. NASA's Kepler Mission (you see what they did there with the name? Pretty inventive huh?) has con- firmed the first near-Earth size planet in the "habitable zone" around a sun-like star. While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, its 385-day orbit is only five percent longer. The planet is five percent farther from its parent star, Kepler- 452, than Earth is from the sun. Kepler-452 is six billion years old, which is only 1.5 billion years older than our sun, has the same tempera- ture and is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter ten percent larger. According to Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California who lead the team that discovered Kepler-452b, "It's awe- inspiring to consider that this planet has spent six billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth. That's substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this plan- et." If that's the case, then we better get going. Who knows what's been hap- pening on our dis- tant cousin's planet these past few days. The only catch is, Kepler-452b is 1,400 light years away from Earth. In the grand scheme of things and relative to the massive size of the universe, he's practically our next door neighbor. But if you're still a little unclear on the whole light year concept and what that really means, let me explain it in layman terms without all the fancy calculations. It's a long ways away. Really. Really. Long. Twenty-six million years long. Give or take a million. I think it all depends on if we have a good tailwind. I'll give you one example to put it into perspective. It took New Horizons nine years to reach Pluto, which is ONLY 0.0008 light years away. Pack a lunch. After delving a little further (I googled) I found out we may be closer than we thought. It turns out interstellar travel is no big deal for Starfleet and the Enterprise (at Warp 9) could reach Kepler-452b in 336 days, 23 hours and 41 min- utes and according to the movie Star Trek: First Contact , Zefram Cochrane is the first human to cre- ate a warp drive system in 2063. So you see, we're not that far away. In fact, in less than 50 years we could be standing in downtown Kepler (in keeping with the whole name thing) wondering where the closest Walmart is. Kevin Ferris From the Desk of the Publisher An artist's conception of Earth and Kepler- 452b. CARMEN'S JEWELRY 925 4th Ave., Moline 762-2999 22nd ANNIVERSARY SALE!

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