Another planet in Kepler-186?

That spanking new planet’s already a star.
K-186 f, you know who you are.
You’re making us wonder if we’re all alone.
The planet out there in the habitable zone.

I’ve been on the radio.  Been on TV.
Talking ‘bout the planet. Just what can we see?
Just what do we know about this special rock?
Are there little green men?  Just how do they talk?

We don’t know nearly as much as we’d like.
And five hundred light years is kind of a hike.
But if there might be life, I’ll clean off my bike.
Or rather my rocket.  I’ll set it to zoom.
Or maybe I’ll dust off my old wizard broom.

Wait, stop!  This is heading in the wrong direction.
The planet’s too far for a close-up inspection.
If we blast our fastest rocket high up into space
It’ll be 10 million years ‘til we reach that far place.

So we’ll just have to rely on our telescopes,
computers and brains.  That’s right, we’re no dopes.
To figure things out we need to stop blundering.
We need to chill out and do some good wondering.

Let’s take a close look at the entire system.
Are there more planets?  Might we have missed ‘em?
If there are more planets, they will need space.
Now is there anything that’s out of place?

The four inner planets are crammed like sardines.
No space for another to fit in between.
But then there’s a gap and it’s pretty wide.
You could easily fit another planet inside.

So I sat down and ran some simulations
on my computer.  And these calculations
show that a planet really can stick around.
Right in the gap.  The gap we just found.

The Kepler-186 planetary system, reimagined with a hypothetical sixth planet.  The top part shows a view of the planets' orbits.  The habitable zone is shaded.  The bottom part compares the amount of energy received by each planet with the energy received by the Solar System's planets.  The hypothetical planet -- at its most likely location --  receives just slightly less energy from its star than the Earth does from the Sun, placing it toward the inner edge of the habitable zone.

The Kepler-186 planetary system, reimagined with a hypothetical sixth planet. The top part shows a view of the planets’ orbits. The habitable zone is shaded. The hatched area is the “gap” where another planet could exist.  The bottom part compares the amount of energy received by each planet with the energy received by the Solar System’s planets. The hypothetical planet — at its most likely location — receives just slightly less energy from its star than the Earth does from the Sun, placing it toward the inner edge of the habitable zone.

Another planet?  Wouldn’t we find it?
Well, not if its orbit is out of alignment.
If it’s just tilted by one small degree
we probably would miss it.  It’s that hard to see.

But this extra planet should have the same girth
as the other planets.  About like the Earth.
Just like the others it’s a rocky place.
One more rocky planet floating out there in space.

This planet wouldn’t be boiling or freezing.
It should be quite warm.  It would be quite pleasing.
It could have oceans and great lakes and rains.
And rivers that wind their way across the plains.

It would be number two in the habitable zone.
Its big brother would not have to be all alone.
Two planets with water, one near and one far.
Two places for life around the same star.

Of course I am being a little bit careless.
It may be, in fact, that these planets are airless.
All we really know is planet f’s size.
And hints there might be this extra guy.

The trickiest part is, how can we find it?
The planet that’s sitting there out of alignment.
I think that it’s there but I have no proof.
And the Kepler satellite last year went poof.

Now Kepler’s back but it’s not as strong.
So it can’t go back to check if I’m wrong.
For now there’s no other ‘scope in the land
or even in space or New York or Japan
that can find this planet.  It’s just too faint.
So maybe it’s in there or maybe it ain’t.

I hope that we’ll find it, I’ll never say never.
But someone will have to do something real clever.
I hope it comes soon.  Hope it’s not too slow.
I think that it’s there.  But for now we don’t know.

Now…..
If you find a planet you don’t get to name it.
The planet’s not yours. You don’t get to claim it.
But this extra planet has not yet been found
so I don’t think that anyone will make a sound
if I call this planet a special thing.
Planet Marisa, that has a nice ring.

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  1. #1 by Steve Z on May 7, 2014 - 8:15 pm

    Good stuff my man !!

  2. #2 by Jennifer on May 14, 2014 - 11:15 pm

    Entertaining prose, with a fabulous ending! :D

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