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Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/24/2007 8:36 PM

CNN.com: Science & Space April 24, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- European astronomers have spotted what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet outside our solar system, with balmy temperatures that could support water and, potentially, life.

"We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid."

Most of the 200 or so planets that have been spotted outside this solar system have been gas giants like Jupiter. But this one is small.

"Its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky, like our Earth, or covered with oceans," Udry said in a telephone interview.

Boy! On one hand, it's exciting. On the other hand, it's terrifying. If there is life there, there is probably a lot of life there, being that it's 1.5 times the size of earth. That's a lot of lab space for nature to experiment in. Viruses, microbs, insects, plants, aquatic and land animals. Who knows what's flying, walking, crawling, creaping, slithering or swiming around over there!

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#1

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/25/2007 10:07 AM

And at 2X our gravity (or whatever it works out to be), you can bet that whatever lives there is stronger than us.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/25/2007 11:58 AM

Did we just find Deathworld? Sorry, I'm a fan of pulpy Sci-Fi.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/25/2007 7:26 PM

The Enterprise never reported it. Was Captain Kirk asleep. Did Mr. Spock, fail to see the logic? Is this where the Clingons come from? New holliday home for Uncle George?

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#4

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/25/2007 10:51 PM

"Boy! On one hand, it's exciting. On the other hand, it's terrifying."

Classify under:

Interesting, but of doubtful value. An iteresting factoid, of little if any practical use, yet news folks wax eloquent over its existence, astronomers jump for joy, and other assorted otherwise sober men make absurd statements as to the implications of the possibilities. WHATIFFING on an unprecedented scale.

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#5

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/25/2007 10:54 PM

Imagine the tornados and hurricanes there. Or maybe not without a tilt of the axis.

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#6

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/25/2007 11:38 PM

Does anyone know if water CAN be shown to exist there, if it is in large enough quantities, from this distance? Or are we going to have to send a probe? When (of course "or if") other life forms are found on other celestial bodies, could you even imagine the theoretical possibilities of lifes existance throughout the entire universe?

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#7
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/25/2007 11:49 PM

OK, So they think they found an earth like planet twenty light years away. How long at our current top rate of speed would it take to get there. We are currently a long way from the speed of light. Twenty light years in my book equates to twenty years at the speed of light. Correct me if I am wrong

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#8

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 2:56 AM

Harbinger:

According to the article: "Gliese 581 is among the 100 closest stars to Earth, just 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra."

Wow! Another world with possible life on it. I understand that NASA has set some sights on exploring it. If they can get a vehicle up to just 1/2 the speed of light, we should get our probes there within a mere 41 years after launch. Then, of course, the broadcasts would begin; so we should hear something back (assuming our probes aren't blasted out of the sky as an invading force) around 61.5 years from now. Despite the fact that the broadcasts would be old news, they would contain exciting new info for us to munch on.

Thing is, we'd better get started right away. This will be a real plum for the earthside monitoring crew, because it means a lifetime of employment more or less hanging around waiting. If this means lots of overtime and vacation time, just point me to the recruitment desk!

Mark

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#9

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 3:15 AM

As far as I know they detect this kind of objects by the amount of light that reaches us from the star.

I can imagine that you can get a lot of information through this model, like the size, and duration of a year.

But how can you measure the temperature of an object which only is detected by the shadow it generates?

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#10
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 5:51 AM

I think in this case they're detecting the doppler shift in emission lines from the star, which will vary periodically due to the star shifting slightly as a planet revolves around it.

"Udry's team uses a method known as radial velocity, using the European Southern Observatory telescope at La Silla, Chile."

The reason that most of the planets discovered have been "Hot Jupiters" is that a massive planet close to the star is easiest to detect.

They have a pretty good idea of the mass of the star from its color, brightness, and distance. The amplitude of the periodic doppler shift indicates the mass of the planet and its frequency indicates the planet's period of revolution and hence distance. Once they have the distance, they can estimate the planet's temperature from the star's luminosity.

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#11
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 7:05 AM

The estimation of the temperature based on the distance from his sun is only possible if we know the composition of it's atmosphere and the size of the atmosphere.

Based on the suns light it is possible to find the size and mass. For nearby objects we can measure the composition and size by the atmosphere. But this is not directly nearby.

And I assume that it is to small to do a kind of inverse corona measurement of its own radiation. Although this would be the perfect reason to build a space bound system that can do this. Way better spended money than a human visit to Mars.

The far side of the moon would be a perfect location, as this is shielded from all human interaction, during its night (12 day's long) it is even shielded from the sun.

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#12

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 8:46 AM

While it is only a single planet that appears to be earthlike to have two planets within 20 light years even capable of supporting life means that there are probably far more planets of the type than we could have possibly imagined. If the 20 light year separation is truly representative of the sort of frequency that we can expect to find earthlike planes then there must be at the very least be hundreds of millions of them within the Milky Way alone.

That would make life an almost certainty and increase the probability of us detecting intelligent life to the point that NASA would need to seriously look at restarting the SETI program that was scuttled by the US senate.

Whilst sending a probe to investigate is out of the reach of our technology at the moment and it is unlikely that we will see anything from this planet during our lifetime it is certainly an important discovery.

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#13
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 9:10 AM

One report put the gravity at 5 X Earths. Reportedly the dominant life form there is more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

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#14
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 9:58 AM

At the very least we should turn our radio dishes and telescopes in that direction and see if anybody's home. I'd like to see a full EM spectrum analysis of that region of space - you never know what you'll find until you look.

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#15
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 10:01 AM

It would be a multi-generational effort to be sure, since we'd be fortunate to reach .1C with our current technology.

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#16
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 12:56 PM

Oh, there's clearly precedent (and justification) for even wildly outlandish "whatiffing." Not everything that "is" has been "imagined" and likely not everything that has been "imagined" "is" or "may be," but humanity will better preserve itself by imagining what "is" well in advance of being confronted with it. And, I'm not talking about "War of the Worlds" scenarios, either. Knowledge shapes beliefs, beliefs shape attitudes, and attitudes shape actions. The better we understand our universe, the more apt we are to anticipate its perils and its promise. Or, at least, that's what the little green man who gave me all of those injections told me to say...

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#17
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 1:09 PM

SETI is still active, but managed privately. In fact, for the past 6 or 7 years, I have been loaning the use on my computer to the effort. The Seti(at)Home project http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/ distributes SETI processing tasks via the internet automatically to individual users who donate their computer's processing power during downtime via the use of a "screensaver" utility. As I understand it, the Seti at Home project is, by far, the single largest data processing project in human history. No intelligent signals have been detected, thus far, but estimates of the potential spectrum covered are very low.

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#18

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 1:27 PM

It would be interesting to be the one chosen to go to the planet at near the speed of light. It might only take you a few months to get there while it would really take 20.5 light years plus a few months to get there. That is one fascinating thing I seem to take away from the Theory of Relativity.

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#19

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 2:08 PM

All these techniques the astronomers use to find this information is mind boggling to me. It seems to a non-educated (in this area) person that it is all an educated guess. Still it is very exiting to think about all the possibilities that are associated with a find like this. I was thinking I read that in order to determine if there is actually water on this planet it needs to be analyzed while it passes in front of its sun in sort of an ecliptic style. I also think I read that this won't happened in the near future or even in our lifetime. To bad we don't have the technology to just send a probe.

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#20
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/26/2007 4:42 PM

Your're right that a ship traveling at sub-light speed would take longer than 20 years to get there but, only as measured by observers on Earth. Time dialation, as I understand it, would cause time on the ship to pass slower then on the Earth. That means the ships crew would see the distance between them and the star of this planet shrink as they accelerate towards it and they would see themselves arrive in less than 20 years.

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#21
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/27/2007 6:18 AM

Jason? Is that you?

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#22
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/27/2007 10:43 AM

The affect-challenged hardasses from the Star Trek "enterprise" were "Klingons," with a "k." "Clingons," on the other hand, are the bane of groomers of long-haired dogs and cats.

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#23
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/27/2007 10:48 AM

That's "Enterprise" with an "E".

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#24
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/27/2007 10:57 AM

The Star Ship "Enterprise" is a proper noun requiring a capital "E." When used to refer to the whole Star Trek genre and its common-themed spinoffs, etc., as I intended; however, the word "enterprise" would not be a proper noun. Of course, I played on that ambiguity in wording my comment. Score one for the academs!

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#25
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/27/2007 11:00 AM

Then "Clingons" is a proper noun?

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#26
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/27/2007 4:48 PM

No, "clingons" is not a proper noun and the initial "c" would generally be capitalized only when starting a sentence with it. If, however, some sort of dangly form of "cling on" adornment were to become trademarked with that name, it would then be a proper noun. I forgot how fun capitalization could be!

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#27
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/28/2007 11:22 PM

In response to #17 by texlex: "As I understand it, the Seti at Home project is, by far, the single largest data processing project in human history. No intelligent signals have been detected"

Seems really obvious to mention this, but if there were folks out there in outer space pointing their SETI in our direction, and listening to our broadcasts, they wouldn't detect any intelligent signals either!

(But I hadda go and say it anyway! )

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#28
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/29/2007 12:02 PM

Seems really obvious to mention this, but if there were folks out there in outer space pointing their SETI in our direction, and listening to our broadcasts, they wouldn't detect any intelligent signals either!

Oh how true, can you imagine the impression they would have if all they got was "I Love Lucy" or "F Troop". Lets just hope that they don't watch the news services and get scared off by what would appear to be a bunch of self promoting murderous thugs hell bent on self destruction. Come to think of it, maybe they do know we are here and havn't visited us yet because there are scared witless of us.

Seriously though it depends on how far they are away. We have been transmitting radio signals for about a century now and if the earthlike planets do indeed occur about every 20 light years then there is the possibility that our signals have already reached some 125 planets like Earth.

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#29
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

04/30/2007 2:00 AM

Yet another error in our headlong rush to either being shunned by our neighbours or self destruction!

Or, at the very best--assuming folks on those planets don't yet have faster-than-light transportation--by the time they get here, we might have evolved to readiness to join the United Federation Of Planets.

On second thought...is there any chance we could take those broadcasts back again?

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#30

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/01/2007 2:46 AM

And tommorow, Pinky, we take over the world!

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#31

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/01/2007 8:17 AM

Dr.Smith, you say

"won't take that long to get there."

If I remember the fastest a human has ever traveled was when the Apollo 13 astronauts arrived back at earth after looping around the moon and that was about 58,000 Km/h or about 16 Kms-1 so lets say we have improved since them and now we can do 20 Kms-1.

  • Distance = 20years x c
  • Distance = 189 Pm
  • Speed = 20 Kms-1

Now to calculate how long it would take to get there

  • Time = Distance ÷ Speed
  • Time = 189 Pm ÷ 20 Kms-1
  • Time ≈ 9.5 Ts

You obviously come from another planet because 9.5 Ts is 300,000 years and to me that doesn't come under the category of "won't take that ling to get there".

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/01/2007 8:47 AM

Well, I'm planning to live forever, but there is a limit to how many times you can watch Grosse Point Blank!

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#33

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/01/2007 9:33 AM

CR4 Moderator's Note: The comments by Dr. Smith to which several users refer have been removed from this site.

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#34
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/01/2007 10:20 AM

Your point is well taken, but you should be using the speed of the New Horizons spacecraft, which is > 52,000 mph, which may be 84000km/h if memory serves. It's unmanned, but there's no reason to believe we couldn't achieve this speed with a manned ship.

So, that's only 207,000 years.

The New Horizons craft borrowed energy from Jupiter to gain it's speed - that leads me to wonder just how fast a spacecraft could go if it spent a few years in our solar system in an orbit around the sun, picking up a boost from the sun on each pass, before spewing on out into the cosmos.


And, just on a personal note - not being a Panda fan, I wouldn't take that Ling to go anywhere.

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#35
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/01/2007 11:03 AM

It appears Dr.Smith was an alien after all and has been beamed up out of CR4.

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#36

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/01/2007 12:28 PM

As an astronomical discovery it needs merely to be recorded as a matter of fact.

Far more important is a recognition of the facts and fictions being bandied about wirh regard to the immediate future and long term implications with regard to environmental effects on our our planet and their effects on society.

A thoughtful and realistic assessment of the environmental status quo!

Take about an hour to watch:<http://www.aconvenientfiction.com/index.html>

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#37
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/01/2007 3:31 PM

I don't have an hour, but I did take the time to read their report, "Leading Environmental Indicators, 2007".

From which I gleam:

Global mean temperature - up a degree (C) over the past 100 years.

C02 increasing at an average rate of .41% per year.

Methane up 8% between 1985 and 2001.

US CO2 emissions up 33% since 1982.

Sea levels up 17.5 cm (6.9 inches) over the past century.

Average arctic temperature up 2C in the past 100 years.

Alaska temps up 3.5F in the past 60 years.

2006 was the warmest year in the US on record.

But, not to fear, because, "A few scientists, including some from the Russian Academy of Sciences and two Chinese scientists, argue that the warming trend is, in fact, slowing, and they predict that a cooling period is about to commence..."

The fact that Al Gore may be a moron or that Hollywood actors are mindless sheep has no bearing on the science of global warming. The Earth is getting hotter, and that fact is well correlated with human production of greenhouse gases - as evidenced in this report.


And this has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

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#38
In reply to #36

Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/02/2007 10:55 AM

Stirling Stan:

Given the current state of technological capability in the cosmological studies field, we can only log the event as a matter of interest and worthy of continuing studies.

Thankfully, technological advances keep occurring; and closer and more accurate studies will doubtlessly be a fascinating source of information on all the M-type planets, whether we ever get to meet the inhabitants or not.

Mark

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#39
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/02/2007 11:06 AM

Last week the inhabitants of a constellation 100 light years away have been informed that a planet has been discovered, circling round a star 100 light years away. Although temperature is acceptable, the oxygen level in the atmosphere is 20%, which makes life impossible on this planet. The occurrence of free oxygen is puzzling the scientists.

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#40
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/02/2007 11:16 AM

Maybe they could make the planet habitable by sending a few thousand iron rich asteroids into this new planet's atmosphere. The dangerous O2 would then bond with the iron, leaving nitrogen and life sustaining CO2 behind.

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#41
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/03/2007 1:07 AM

I'm not sure we should try to get rid of the little oxygen-loving buggers, bhankii. They might taste good, or be put to some sort of useful work.

But at least they would go in a lovely shower of rusty meteors, and it was kind of you to suggest the idea.

Er...how many asteroids do you think it might take?

Mark

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#42
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Re: Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet

05/03/2007 2:10 PM

It really depends on how big they are I would guess. I'm sure there's a very applicable ChemE formula - I'm just an humble EE.

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