NASA’s Kepler mission announced [on February 26, 2014] the discovery of 715 new planets.... Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.
Excuse me? Seven hundred fifteen exoplanets? Seven hundred fifteen? Well, if that isn’t some heliocentric, spacist moonshot right there. I’ve seen the list of the new planets. I read the names and/or numbers. You know who didn’t make the list? Me: Not Number 716. Oh, and I know why, too: It’s because I don’t revolve around a star. It’s just me out here in this patch of darkness. Just me, the sole survivor of a cataclysm that vaporized the rest of the heavenly bodies in what used to be a quite agreeable solar system. But now that I’m following—I can’t really say enjoying—a non-traditional path—through no doing of my own, mind you—I get overlooked for induction into NASA’s Class of 2014. And that, I have to say, is the result of some classic retrograde thinking.
Not for nothing, but when I say I was overlooked, I do not mean that Kepler didn’t see me. No, he saw me. He winked at me—with several lights, in fact. That spacecraft flew right by me, and he’s an observatory. His whole raison d’outer space is to observe. So there’s no question that I escaped his notice. No, the problem is that Kepler’s mission was to look for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. And, like I said, I don’t orbit a star. My star went nova some fifty thousand years ago, and it didn’t just burn up itself and my six celestial siblings, but also, it would seem, my chances of ever being accepted as normal. When that star exploded, it put the “tragic” in my trajectory, as it were.
What’s NASA afraid of? That I’ll be a bad influence on the “good” planets? I’ll have the same influence that I’ve always had—no more or less. I mean, if another mass comes close enough that we feel the force of mutual attraction, that just can’t be helped. That’s the law of gravity. But maybe NASA’s afraid that I will get too close to one of its new favorites. NASA doesn’t want any inner-spatial relationships among the exoplanets. Is that it? Well, that’s silly. Just because I don’t revolve around anyone or anything doesn’t make me a rebel. Does it make me a drifter? Technically, it might. But at least I’m not a comet. Those guys are mostly dust and gas—insubstantial and totally unreliable. I know. One of my smaller satellites fell hard for a comet once, but he’d only come around every 120 years, and he’d never stay long. I tried to warn her not to give her solid, iron-rich inner core to someone with a heart of ice, but you just can’t reason with a lunar chick.
But listen to me. I must sound as narrow-minded as the roguephobes on Earth who see nothing wrong with alienating an alien world on the basis of orbital status. If I could, I’d pay NASA a personal visit and ask someone there to look me in the equator and tell me to my largest landmass that there’s no place for me on the exoplanet roster, that I’m not worthy of inclusion, that I deserve to be terra non grata. Of course, I can’t do that, because I’d wind up killing everyone on Earth, and that’s just not something I’d ever do. But I can’t promise that if I ever see that Kepler character around here again I won’t nudge him into a black hole. Because, as a luminary and tireless champion of spatial equality once said: “Nothing in the Universe is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity, except a lonely, pissed-off planet.”
Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.