As mentioned earlier, I stayed for the full astronomy course this weekend, rather than just presenting my lecture and leaving. This allowed me to hear several interesting talks on topics that I do not usually encounter.

Two of these talks were on exoplanets -- or worlds outside of our solar system. In my previous post, I mentioned the talk by Dr. Suzanne Aigrain on New Insights from Transiting Exoplanets. In her talk, she discussed how we can work out the composition and atmosphere of exoplanets, which impressed the heck out of me.

The other talk on exoplanets was more general (titled, quite simply, as Exoplanets), and given by Prof. Hugh Jones. Overall, I found it to be a less interesting -- and less organised -- talk than Dr. Aigrain's. However, he did mention -- somewhat cryptically -- that we should keep our ears pealed... as there would be an exciting announcement coming on Tuesday.

Well, it is now Tuesday. So what was Prof. Jones hinting at?

Turns out, he was not exaggerating. The news is out, and can be read about in brief here.

Or, to be even more brief, just read on: Another planet comparable in size to Earth has -- for the first time -- been discovered! How cool is that??

For those who are unimpressed, please recall that, until 1995, the prospect of finding any planets outside our solar system was considered to be more fantasy than fact. Hundreds have now been located, by a variety of methods, but they are nearly all giants -- making them far easier to detect. The discovery of a planet comparable in size to Earth -- orbiting a star twenty light years away -- is an astounding discovery, indeed!

Still not impressed? Fine. Perhaps this will entertain you instead: Following in the footsteps of the wildly successful Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sep 19) and the more amusing Talk Like A Ninja Day ([*]), the day after tomorrow -- Apr 23 -- is Talk Like A Shakespeare Day. Zounds! To celebrate the birthday of the Bard, people are being encouraged to speak like an Elizabethan playwright! Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious Springtime by this son of Chicago...

[*] The concept of Talk Like A Ninja Day evolved as a response to Talk Like A Pirate Day. It was independently proposed by multiple sources, of which yours truly is one. As such, it is difficult to find which is the best day to celebrate, though Dec 05 may have the strongest claim.

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