Kepler’s Worlds

Alan Hale writes as a new member to Project Icarus. Alan’s research interests include the search for planets beyond the solar system, including those which might have favorable environments for life; stars like the sun; minor bodies in the solar system, especially comets and near-Earth asteroids; and advocacy of spaceflight. He is primarily known for his work with comets, which has included his discovery of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1995 and his participation in the International HalleyWatch during the return of Halley’s Comet in 1986. This article originally appeared in the Alamogordo (New Mexico) Daily News as part of the weekly column ‘In Our Skies.’ It has been modified slightly from its original version. As recently as two decades ago, when this author was in graduate school and researching this particular topic, the subject of planets outside our solar system was almost completely theoretical. There were quite a few ideas floating around as to what these worlds might be like, and where they might be found, but at that time there were no such worlds that had been discovered and confirmed, and thus the subject remained in the realm of speculation. (more…)