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I am now in the third week of my annual February birthday fund-raising drive. The first two weeks were good, but not record-setting.

 

There are still two weeks left in this campaign however. If you have been a regular reader and a fan of my work and have not yet donated or subscribed, please consider doing so. I take no ads, I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands (most of the time). Thus, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.

 

You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:

 

1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.

 

2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.
 

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:


5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
 
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652


A slew of exoplanets

Using two European-built ground-based telescopes in Chile, astronomers have announced today the discovery of 50 new exoplanets, 16 of which are considered super Earths, one of which is in the habitable zone of its star. You can read the preprint of their research paper here [pdf].

Super Earths have masses from 1 to 10 times that of our Earth. The newly discovered super Earth in the habitable zone, dubbed HD 85512 b and thirty-five light years away, has a mass only 3.6 times that of the Earth, and orbits its star every 59 days at a distance of only about 23 million miles. The planet’s sun is cooler than the Sun, but the exoplanet sits in the inner edge of the star’s habitable zone, so that the amount of energy it receives is only 3% less than Venus’s. “If we are really really lucky this planet could be habitable,” said Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

Sadly, it will be years before we will be able to do the spectroscopy necessary to tell us whether this planet could be habitable, since the telescope capable of gathering this data is not yet built. Fortunately, some are under construction, such as the Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope.

The new data also suggests that more than fifty percent of the observed stars have low mass planets. “Most of the stars have planets, and most have low mass planets,” noted Francesco Pepe of Geneva University. A large number of these are thought to be below 30 times the mass of the Earth, with many less than 10 times the Earth’s mass. They have also found very few planets around 30 times the mass of the Earth: for some reason not yet understood, extrasolar planets appear to be either larger or smaller.

Regardless, all this suggests that in the coming years we will be overwhelmed with the discover of many Earthlike planets orbiting stars both close and far from us. Even more exciting, we will soon know the first stars that humans will want to visit, once interstellar travel becomes possible.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

Readers: the rules for commenting!

 

No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.

 

However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.

 

Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

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