November 2, 2009

A Roller Coaster Ride with Kepler

It was a carefree feeling glancing at the beautiful sunset while speeding and spinning through the towering steel structures. There were few people at Six Flags on their last night of the season so the lines were quick for the roller coaster rides. As night came, I hopped on to Nitro. And as our coaster positioned itself on the steep incline, I was amused that it was directly aimed at the Moon. The view was amazing. As I gazed around further at the clear night sky, I immediately recognized Cygnus. And of course, I couldn't help but think of the Kepler telescope staring at that same patch of sky. And for a couple of minutes as we slowly inched our way up, I was exogazing.

When Kepler was launched on March earlier this year, I was very happy. It was the telescope that could find earth's twin and probably help mankind answer one of our deepest questions.

A few days after Kepler's launch, I became worried about some silly things. For one, I thought that they launched Kepler but forgot to remove the "lens cap". Its a kind of joke that you can laugh about, but which might have been a nightmare if the protective cover didn't pop out at all. Then Kepler went through a some troubles, such as going into safe mode.

Then, everything seemed to work fine for the next few months as Kepler succesfully confirmed some data for a known exoplanet. I was very happy. Kepler was showing a lot of promise.

Until one day, entropy caught up with it.


Last week, news came out that the Kepler had some "noisy" electronics that was affecting the data. And the fix for the software probably wouldn't come until 2011, delaying the chance to find Earth-sized planets. I was sad once more.

Suddenly, I was headed down. Our coaster crossed the peak and started barreling down at top speed. It was exhilarating. And in no time at all I was on my way up again for a 360 degree loop.

You see, Just this morning i heard that Kepler is actually doing well according to William Borucki, the project leader. He said that the news concerning Kepler's woes were inaccurate. If there's anyone who'd probably have emotional ups and down in the ongoing saga of the mission, then it must be this soft-spoken man and the Kepler team. But i have to admit that I am being taken on a ride. But it's all good. I can see that the story of man's quest to discover other worlds is filled with many ups and downs--with some twists and turns along the way.

Comparing the ongoing planet-hunt saga to a roller coaster ride may not be too far-fetched. Moreso that the best loop is yet to come. Yes, the quest for other worlds is a wild ride. I simply raise my arms up and scream.