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{ El planeta extrasolar que no descubrió la NASA }

Esta semana el Observatorio Austral Europeo (ESO) ha anunciado el descubrimiento de un planeta extrasolar alrededor de alfa Centauri B. En Twitter hubo bastante movimiento el martes por la noche, cuando se levantó el embargo de la noticia y se publicaron las notas de prensa un día antes de lo planeado. Muchos medios de comunicación cubrieron la historia, que es sin duda, uno de los grandes titulares científicos del año (y los hay importantes*).

Anoche, sin embargo, recibí en el correo una nota de prensa que me llamó poderosamente la atención: NASA Statement On Alpha Centauri Planet Discovery.

«We congratulate the European Southern Observatory team for making this exciting new exoplanet discovery. For astronomers, the search for exoplanets helps us understand our place in the universe and determine whether Earth is unique in supporting life or if it is just one member of a large community of habitable worlds. NASA has several current and future missions that will continue in this search».

Vale la pena leer el texto completo. Nada menos que la NASA felicita en un comunicado oficial al ESO por el descubrimiento del planeta de alfa Centauri. Y a continuación, explica por qué sus misiones actuales no pudieron detectar el planeta, y qué podrán hacer en el futuro. Es muy significativo que la NASA salga al paso de un descubrimiento realizado por otra institución. En primer lugar, da cuenta de su trascendencia. α Centauri es el sistema estelar más próximo a la Tierra. Si algún día los humanos quisiéramos explorar fuera de nuestro sistema planetario, tendría que ser por allí.

Pero la nota también tiene otra lectura, en clave estadounidense. La NASA parece excusarse de no haber realizado el descubrimiento. El comunicado explica que el telescopio espacial dedicado a la búsqueda de planetas extrasolares, Kepler, ni observa alfa Centauri ni el método de detección que utilizan es el mismo que el utilizado por el equipo europeo. Y también aprovechan la ocasión para mencionar algunos proyectos que en el futuro podrían a desvelar más datos sobre éste y otros planetas extrasolares. A la hora de negociar mejores presupuestos, el perder relevancia internacional es un argumento político de mucho peso en EEUU (recordemos las misiones de exploración de la NASA están sufriendo las inclemencias presupuestarias).

Para finalizar. Como comenta Daniel Fischer, mientras la NASA felicita públicamente el trabajo del ESO, es probable que el público europeo lo asocie con la agencia espacial estadounidense («Espacio = NASA»). Así que vaya desde aquí nuestro reconocimiento al Observatorio Austral Europeo, que además celebra este año su 50 aniversario.

(*) El otro gran descubrimiento del año, la detección del bosón de Higgs, también fue descubierto por una institución europea, el CERN.

Categorías: Astronomía
Publicado el 2012-10-18 | 58 Comentarios | Enlace

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Europe for ever! :-)

De: rvr Fecha: 2012-11-08 00:45

Gracias, Anónima.

PD: 'Snif' por esos comentarios perdidos en la lluvia... :)

De: Santiago José López Borrazás Fecha: 2012-12-09 10:14

Parece que no escribes mucho Victor R. :-)



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