Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered if we are alone in the universe? For eons humans have imagined what or who is out there. They even created elaborate stories making the stars the home of mythical creatures and gods.
After hundreds of years of astronomical research, in 1992 astronomers finally had the data to confirm the existence of planets existing beyond our solar system. Now we know of thousands of exoplanets across our galaxy!
In 2009 the Kepler Space Telescope launched with the mission of discovering Earth-sized exoplanets. For nine and a half years it gathered light from an area near the constellations Cygnus, Lyra, and Draco. By analyzing the data and looking for planetary transits (when a planet passes in front of another object), astronomers discovered over 5,000 exoplanets of all types and sizes, with another couple thousand suspected candidates yet to be confirmed.
To showcase in jewelry the incredible research happening in this area, we worked with two exoplanet experts. We started by engraving the lines of the Kepler mirror field in a polished steel disc. Then we etched tiny dots for the location of suspected and confirmed Earth-like planets. These planets are all 1) in the habitable zone of their star, 2) likely rocky, and 3) approximately Earth-sized. Out of all of Kepler's discoveries, these are the planets most likely to host life.
The confirmed Earth-like exoplanets are dark blue on our pendant and the candidates that are suspected but not yet confirmed are white. Depending on the light reflecting on the surface, you can see either the white or the blue dots subtly shining against the lines of the Kepler field.
If you’re a stargazer, you could locate the tiny patch of sky Kepler studied and know that there are seven confirmed Earth-like planets in just that tiny patch of sky!
It's estimated that there are more than 11 billion potentially habitable Earth-sized planets just in the Milky Way. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, if none of those planets host life, seems like an awful waste of space. You can make your own guesses. Given the accelerating speed of exoplanet research, maybe we'll know for sure someday!
The design is micro-engraved and etched on a 1 inch diameter polished steel disc and hung from your choice of an 18 inch sterling silver chain, 18-20 inch steel chain, or 24 inch steel chain. The necklace comes with a magnifying card and a little printout of the map.
Our heartfelt thanks to Max Planck Institute for Astronomy Director Laura Kreidberg and NASA postdoctoral fellow Ethan Kruse for their invaluable help in designing this piece. (Check out Ethan Kruse's Week of Kepler Transits.) Huge shout-out to Clifford Spielman of TotientCraft for making this difficult design a reality!