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Systemic - Characterizing Extrasolar Planetary Systems

Habitable Worlds

1 May 2010, 01:46 UTC
Habitable Worlds
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Gough Island. Image Source.
Urbana, Illinois, the quintessential Midwestern University town, was a fine place to grow up, but it is sited in a landscape that is neither remote nor exotic.
Lifting up from Willard Airport just south of town, the near-absolute flatness of the landscape, planed by the last glacial advance, extends in a patchwork of corn and soybean fields to every horizon.

Something about the first-glance monotony of the Illinois landscape gradually instills a heightened sensitivity to the subtle detail inherent in a sense of place. Ray Bradbury, in Something Wicked This Way Comes, captures the essence of this perfectly. I think that living in Illinois also instilled a fascination with maps of the distant and rugged corners of the world.
I spent a lot of time poring over the maps that come with National Geographic. I’ve always been particularly drawn to the region that corresponding roughly to the South Atlantic Anomaly, the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean that spans the temperate through subarctic latitudes. Roughly equidistant from South America, Africa and Antarctica, the maps show only a few specks of land, St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha, Gough, Bouvet that presumably, on the basis of their latitudes ...

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