Kepler’s Light from Distant Stars

The Kepler Telescope is a planet seeking satellite. And yesterday, as the Kepler glided on through deep space, continually searching to see if we here on earth are alone, the Kepler Mission Control team announced the discovery of 1,235 possible planets orbiting other stars.

A discovery that could triple the number of known stars.

From this new discovery, 54 of the new planets could be habitable. All this from a satellite that is patrolling only 1/400 of the skies.

Reported in the New York Times, Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of technology said, “For the first time in human history, we have a pool of potentially rocky habitable-zone planets. This is the first big step to answering the ancient question, “How common are other earths?”

And as this new light from distant stars shined on our own tiny little planet, it’s likely that the visionary storyteller from Waukegan, Illinois, Ray Bradbury, heard the news too.

Perhaps the news prompted a story. Like the one Bradbury tells when people ask him why he became a writer.

It was the Labor Day weekend of 1932. Bradbury was intrigued by a Carnival Tent on the shores of Lake Michigan advertising a magician who called himself ‘Mr. Elecrico!”

In Bradbury’s own words:

“Mr. Electrico was a fantastic creator of marvels. He sat in his electric chair every night and was electrocuted in front of all the people, young and old, of Waukegan, Illinois. When the electricity surged through his body he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row below his platform. I had been to see Mr. Electrico the night before. When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, ‘Live forever!’

I thought that was a wonderful idea, but how did you do it?”

The next day, young Ray Bradbury went back to that tent and managed to get a private conversation with Mr. Electrico. Bradbury continues:

“He then walked me down by the shore and we sat on a sand dune. He talked about his small philosophies and let me talk about my large ones. At a certain point he finally leaned forward and said, “You know, we’ve met before.”

I replied, “No, sir, I’ve never met you before.”

He said, “Yes, you were my best friend in the great war in France in 1918 and you were wounded and died in my arms at the battle of the Ardennes Forrest. But now, here today, I see his soul shining out of your eyes. Here you are, with a new face, a new name, but the soul shining from your face is the soul of my dear dead friend. Welcome back to the world.”

Welcome back to the world.

As the great writer Bradbury heard the news of new planets discovered by Kepler, perhaps he wasn’t surprised at all. Perhaps the next story to come burbling up through his timeless soul began “Welcome back to the world.”

Perhaps Bradbury read the scientists’ quote on ‘KOI 157’, for ‘Kepler Object of Interest.’ KOI 157 is another Sun. And as the Kepler team studied the way newly discovered planets circled this ‘new’ sun, they likened these orbits to an old vinyl record. Spinning around an old turntable.
Light from distant stars and the spinning of a record on a turntable.

I wonder if Ray Bradbury smiled, remembered, dreamed and then said to himself out loud:

Light from distant stars and the spinning of an old record on a turntable.

Today I’ll write a love story. Maybe even one that will live forever.

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