Posted by: Rowan | November 14, 2008

When real worlds are better than virtual ones

It seems we’ve just taken our first photographs of planets in other live solar systems. They’re on this blog post at Bad Astronomy and they’re for real.

The images on that page tell the story by themselves, but the post itself explains a lot if you have the patience / interest to read it.

As a bloke with a telescope that’s good enough for looking at the moons of Jupiter or inside lunar craters, I’m seriously gob-smacked. Big time. These are stunning. I wish I had a telescope as big as these guys do. And a camera on it would be nice as well.

What caught my attention though was how fast and how far the Comments thread on the post took off.

It’s still going as I write this, and I’m struck by how fast the ‘knowledgeable’ comments went up there. Sure there was a whole lot of ‘Wow fantastic!’ (possibly by people like me) but the thread started with an element of skepticism – and rightly so, but not for long.

The ‘institutions’ scrambled to get their press releases out as the critical mass of knowledgeable input on the blog post arrived quite quickly. And then it moved into the blogosphere where lots of people (like me and my lunar-scale telescope) lapped it up. And shared it.

C’mon, if you’ve read this far you’ve probably had a look at it already. If not, you’re only reading this because you have nothing better to do, so go and look at some planets. :-)

The comments I have to applaud though, are these ones about the ‘mainstream’ media:

Dan Says: November 13th, 2008 at 4:22 pm CNN’s article on this is hilarious, since they use an artist’s rendering of an extrasolar planet on the main article article page. I mean, it’s not like have a real picture to use now, is there?

Inside the pictures tab, it says that Hubble took a picture of Supernova 1987A in 1987. Which is impressive, considering it was not in orbit until three years later.

And this one:

kuhnigget Says: November 13th, 2008 at 6:10 pm On the Yahoo website, the teaser image for this news story has been doctored to include a bright dot in the center of the void left by the removal of the star. I know it’s just a tease, as the picture in the main story does not include the dot, but still, kind of lame.

Makes ya wonder, doesn’t it… Why the need to re-package (falsify?) reality before peddling it off as ‘news’?


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