Improbable Planets

A lot of people want to tell us what is or is not possible.  Okay, I admit traveling faster than the speed of light is impossible.  Knowing a subatomic particle’s exact position and momentum at any given time—that’s impossible.  But most other things in science fiction are merely improbable.

The Kepler Space Telescope recently sighted six new planets orbiting a yellow dwarf star.  The Kepler Mission, discussed in a previous post (click here), is looking for planets in a region near the constellation Cygnus.  The discovery of six planets is good progress.  The discovery of six planets in one star system is exciting.  The discovery of planets orbiting so close together is impossible improbable.

Kepler 11 and its planets (sizes and distances not to scale).

As illustrated in the cartoon above, five of these newly found planets are uncomfortably close together.  And they’re orbiting way too close to their parent star—closer than Mercury is to our Sun.  Only the sixth planet is traveling in what we’d call a normal orbit.  So much for the Titius-Bode Law.

Of course in science, everything must be checked and double checked, and then as we develop better technology and learn more about the universe, we’ll have to check our data yet again.  These six planets may not be as close together as we currently believe… or they may be closer.

The point is in science there are too many things we don’t know.  Even things we think we know might be wrong.  Science fiction writers have a duty to remind us that in this complex, beautiful universe anything is possible.  Except traveling faster than light.

For more information on Kepler 11 and its planets (and a more “accurate” illustration of the Kepler 11 star system), click here.

P.S.: What do you think is impossible improbable?

One Response to Improbable Planets

  1. kimberly says:

    i like the sun picure

    Like

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