Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A cosmic coincidence

Hot within the heels of each other came two discoveries of cosmic proportions.

Yesterday, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum identified a hitherto-unknown mineral as kryptonite. And today, astronomers announced they have discovered a possibly habitable planet orbiting...a red star.

Now would be a good time to play some really cool John Williams music.

The newly discovered planet orbits the faint star Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra. Temperatures on the planet hover between 0 and 40 degrees centigrade, and that means water could very well exist in liquid form. Where there's water, the possibility for life also exists.

The planet is said to have a radius 1.5 times that of earth. Assuming that its constitution is roughly the same as Earth's, its gravity would be 2.25 times that of ours. A bit too heavy for us, but strange visitors from this planet could easily, say, leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Kryptonite, on the other hand, was discovered in a mine in Serbia. Dr. Chris Stanley, the mineralogist tasked to study it, found that its composition was sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, the same composition written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther as depicted in Superman Returns.

The rock, unfortunately, is not green but white.