Exoplanets as Places

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I knew that my thesis work would get some citations, but at the AAS meeting in Long Beach, I got a one I hadn't anticipated.  Longtime AstroWright friend and collaborator John Johnson asked me for the exact wording of the opening lines of my thesis a few days before the meeting.  

A few days later my Twitter and Facebook feeds lit up when John quoted those lines in his Pierce Prize lecture.  

My student Katherina snapped this photo of the big screen:

JJ Talk.jpg
I'm flattered.  For anyone who wants the actual quote, here it is:

Of all of the topics of study in astronomy, exoplanets hold a special place in the imagination. More than stars, nebulae, or galaxies, they are places; both because of their similarities to this place, the Earth, and because in the popular imaginings of science fiction they are so often destinations. As other examples of our home, they promise clues to the origin of life on Earth, and to the existence of life elsewhere.
I should apologize that I didn't mean to slight astronomers that study stars, nebulae, and galaxies:  these objects have their own place in the imagination, are certainly worthy topics, and are also certainly "places".  My point was that exoplanets feel even more like places than those objects, because they remind us of places we have actually been (i.e., on a planet).

Anyway, I always liked that line, and apparently John did too.  And congratulations to John on his well-deserved honor!

1 Comment

very interesting, i like this article, thanks.

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