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News Embargo Inconsistencies

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
December 21, 2011
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NASA Discovers First Earth-size Planets Beyond Our Solar System
“NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered the first Earth-size planets orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system. The planets, called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are too close to their star to be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface, but they are the smallest exoplanets ever confirmed around a star like our sun.”
First Earth-sized Planets Found, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
“The paper describing the finding will be published in the journal Nature.”
Keith’s 20 Dec note: How cool. Yet NASA PAO only offers less than 24 hours advanced notice about this announcement and the event is scheduled while people are on vacation or holiday shopping? Yes, I know all about Nature magazine’s archaic and self-imposed rules regarding publication, etc. NASA is apparently powerless to challenge the way that external publications release news of its own discoveries. Why NASA cannot simply dictate TO these publications how NASA wishes announce its own taxpayer-funded discoveries simply baffles me. These journals ought to be competing with one another to publish astonishing news like this – not telling NASA if/when it can. These “first” announcements only happen once. I simply do not understand why NASA rushes to put out half-baked news and then misses a chance to fully promote and explain astonishing gems such as this news.
US asks scientific journals to censor bird flu studies, Guardian
“The US government has asked the scientific journals Nature and Science to censor data on a laboratory-made version of bird flu that could spread more easily to humans, fearing it could be used as a potential weapon. The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity asked the two journals to publish redacted versions of studies by two research groups that created forms of the H5N1 avian flu that could easily jump between ferrets – typically considered a sign the virus could spread quickly among humans. The journals are objecting to the request, saying it would restrict access to information that might advance the cause of public health.”
Keith’s 21 Dec update: Hmm, the government asks Science and Nature to restrict the publishing of certain information and they object. Yet they refuse to allow NASA to discuss its own research in advance of a publication embargo. These journals want to have it both ways.
Of course, the odd thing about this Kepler story is that Nature story embargoes do not normally lift several days in advance of publication – this week’s issue comes out on 22 December. If NASA and Nature stuck to their usual process the press conference would have been held after 1:00 pm EST today. What’s up with that?
Word has it that NASA got wind of a paper – in the same edition of Nature A compact system of small planets around a former red-giant star which says “Here we report the presence of two nearly Earth-sized bodies orbiting the post-red-giant, hot B subdwarf star KIC 05807616 … KIC 05807616 (also known as KPD 194314058) is a seemingly isolated pulsating hot B subdwarf (sdB) star that has been monitored by the Kepler satellite primarily for the study of its oscillations”. They used Kepler archival data and it would seem that NASA did not want to have someone else scoop them on finding the first Earth-sized planets without NASA making the announcement.
So, Kepler has found two more Earth-sized extrasolar planets. But not a peep from NASA.
Discovery of two Earth-size planets raises questions about the evolution of stars, University of Montreal
“While analyzing the data obtained with the NASA Kepler mission …”
Astronomers, Iowa State’s Kawler Discover Planets That Survived Their Star’s Expansion, Iowa State
“Kawaler said NASA’s Kepler mission, launched in March 2009, is a tremendous tool for studying stars and planets. So much so, astronomers are working to extend the Kepler mission another four years, from 2012 into 2016.”
Astronomers Discover Deep-Fried Planets, University of Arizona
“… the team used data obtained from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope for this study.”

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.