October 19, 2009

The 400 Mark

Something remarkable happened today.

We have just reached the 400th mark of total known exoplanets on the same year that we are celebrating the 400th Anniversary of Astronomy. It was only 400 years ago when Galileo started to point the telescope at the heavens. And look how far we have gone since then! It's a welcome note that the biggest catch of new extrasolar planets occurs on the International Year of Astronomy 2009.
More so that hidden beneath the numbers is something even more remarkable--the exponential rate of acceleration of new exoplanet discoveries. You see, it's not that a new exoplanet is being discovered for every year since 400 years ago. It's that there has been an upward trend in exoplanet count within the 15 years since the announcement of the first exoplanet in 1995.

As every futurist knows, it's the exponential rate that must noted. Exponential thinking is something that must be understood by the populace to get a better grip of what is to come. The power and capabilites of telescopes also follows an upward curve comparable to Moore's Law. In this same year a few months ago, the Kepler Mission was launched, ensuring another surge of exoplanet discoveries within 2 to 3 years from now and beyond. And shortly after then, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be launched to bring us even more exoplanets.

So what lies beyond the 400 mark?

We will find earth-like planets soon, habitable in many regards. Perhaps we may even find habitable exomoons as well. I have a gut feeling that all these will culminate on the discovery of exolife on a planet a few light years away. Then we would have answered one of man's greatest questions.

To live in such an era of profound discoveries is exhilarating. There may never come a period as wonderful as the coming era. Mark my words.