Planet Close

“The discovery that our nearest neighbor has rocky planets is the story of the decade. I’d bet $100 that there are other planets that are there as well.”
Yale astronomer Debra Fischer, on the recent discovery that there is a planet of roughly the same mass as Earth in the Alpha Centauri solar system, a mere 4.4 light years away. Now, sure, this is exciting—because where there is one small, rocky planet, there are often others and there is a habitable orbit zone around 65 million miles from Centauri B. (There are three stars in the Alpha Centauri system.) But, come on, not even the most devout reader of Space Dorks Illustrated could think that this is “The story of the decade.” I mean, surely, the Mars Rover stuff is bigger, even for space-cadet weirdos, right? And of course, down here in normal society, no story can hold a candle to the sandwich that uses fried chicken for bread. (Kind of amazing that that was invented in this decade, isn’t it? It’s such a part of us now.) But this is a good opportunity to say the name “Alpha Centuari” a lot, which really is one of the cooler-sounding names in all of space anywhere and also so much like those Old Spice commercials. (Those commercials are like the third biggest story of the decade.)