Planet Quest reveals potential life on other planets

Planetarium coordinator, Ronn Kistler, poses for a portrait after his presentation of Planet Quest at Hardin Planetarium Nov. 13.

Mary Anne Andrews

A small group of students gathered in Hardin Planetarium Tuesday night for “Planet Quest” to learn about the hunt for other earth-like planets in the galaxy.

Planetarium coordinator Ronn Kistler gave the presentation that included a look at many of the planets that have been discovered in recent years.

These discoveries are thanks to images made by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. NASA announced Wednesday that Kepler was beginning its extended mission after discovering more than 100 confirmed planets during its three-and-a-half-year primary mission.

Through a link on NASA’s website, anyone can become a “planet hunter,” look at Kepler data, and help search for other worlds.

“When we ask, ‘Are there other planets in the universe?’ implicit in this question is, ‘Is there another earth?’” Kistler said.

He said six earth-like planets with the potential for life have been discovered so far. The presentation gives an interactive look at the size and scope of planet hunting.

According to Kistler, the discovery of new planets is just beginning. He said it’s only a drop in the bucket.

“If earth were the size of a quarter, all the planets found so far would fit inside Bowling Green,” he said.

Kistler compared finding other planets to seeing fireflies against the sun. The coordinator said because planets orbit around stars, they are almost undetectable because of their star’s overpowering light. But through a mixture of science and technology, a Swiss team discovered the first planet outside our solar system in 1995.

Kistler tried to make the presentation easy to understand, even for those who haven’t had a science class in a while. He compared earth to a match point, the sun to a yoga ball and the atmosphere to a winter coat.

Bowling Green senior Ashlie Glenn attended the presentation for class, but said she learned a lot.

“I thought there were just the (planets) in our solar system,” she said.

Glenn said based on the information she heard, she thinks there is probably life on other planets.

“If there’s life on our planet, why wouldn’t there be on others?” she said.

“Planet Quest” will be held at the planetarium Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 20.