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Scientists Discover Exoplanet Less Than Twice the Mass of Earth

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the it's-so-small dept.

Space 201

Snowblindeye writes with this excerpt from the European Southern Observatory: "Well-known exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor today announced the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, 'e,' in the famous system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of Earth. The team also refined the orbit of the planet Gliese 581 d, first discovered in 2007, placing it well within the habitable zone, where liquid water oceans could exist. Planet Gliese 581 e orbits its host star — located only 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra ('the Scales') — in just 3.15 days. 'With only 1.9 Earth-masses, it is the least massive exoplanet ever detected and is, very likely, a rocky planet,' says co-author Xavier Bonfils from Grenoble Observatory. Being so close to its host star, the planet is not in the habitable zone. But another planet in this system appears to be. ... The planet furthest out, Gliese 581 d, orbits its host star in 66.8 days. 'Gliese 581 d is probably too massive to be made only of rocky material, but we can speculate that it is an icy planet that has migrated closer to the star,' says team member Stephane Udry. The new observations have revealed that this planet is in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist. '"d" could even be covered by a large and deep ocean — it is the first serious "water world" candidate,' continued Udry."

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201 comments

threadjack (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27675675)

slashdot is news for nerds, and I check here first. Is earthlink down? Website will not load, and hosted website is down, and email through them is gone.

Re:threadjack (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27675981)

confirmed. earthlink.net not loading.

Astronomy (5, Interesting)

Reorix (1184073) | about 5 years ago | (#27675685)

I always hear about these sorts of discoveries, of new planets more and more similar to earth, but having almost no astronomy background, I have no idea how significant they are.

How much do we really know about these planets, and how much is guessing? How close are these planets, really, to earth?

BOOOOOORING! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27675741)

Quit karma-whoring. This article is boring as shit and you know it. OMG WE FOUND A BIG SPACE ROCK LOLZ!!!1!

This discusion will be idle and unproductive. Let's instead discuss the ramifications of approaching the event horizon of the GREAT GOATSE.

Re:BOOOOOORING! (1, Insightful)

American Terrorist (1494195) | about 5 years ago | (#27676047)

Quit karma-whoring. This article is boring as shit and you know it.

This comment would be at least +4 Funny if you had just stopped there.

Re:Astronomy (5, Funny)

olsmeister (1488789) | about 5 years ago | (#27675807)

It's 20 (or so) light years from Earth. According to this [theregister.co.uk] article, we've probably already pissed off any inhabitants...

Re:Astronomy (3, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 5 years ago | (#27676795)

It's 20 (or so) light years from Earth. According to this [theregister.co.uk] article, we've probably already pissed off any inhabitants...

We still have what, ten years left to invent an FTL drive and get there to preemptively apologize for reality television, right?

Re:Astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676919)

j = the speed of light = 670 616 629 mph
y = 20 light years = (20*365.242199*24)
x = 36000 mph, the speed I googled off some rocket going to pluto
(((j * y) / x) / 24) / 365.242199 = 372 564.794

My math is probably wrong here, but wouldn't it take 372,565 years to send a probe there under current achievable speeds?

Re:Astronomy (2, Funny)

Rary (566291) | about 5 years ago | (#27677025)

It's 20 (or so) light years from Earth.

To put that in a context that ordinary nerds without astronomy backgrounds can understand, it's 37,842,113,600,000,000,000,000,000 beard seconds [wikipedia.org] from Earth.

Wanna see more: Celestia (5, Informative)

SalaSSin (1414849) | about 5 years ago | (#27675861)

If you would like to know more, download Celestia [shatters.net] , an open source project to cruise around the universe in 3D.
Just select "go to object" and type in "gliese 581", you'll get the orbits of the different planets already found too.

The neat thing is, you can just "cruise" around, speed up time to see how stellar objects move, and so on... Quite cool :-)

Re:Wanna see more: Celestia (0, Redundant)

SalaSSin (1414849) | about 5 years ago | (#27675903)

Oh, and btw: our sun is about 20 light years away from Gliese 581d. (Also found in Celestia)

Re:Wanna see more: Celestia (1, Funny)

SalaSSin (1414849) | about 5 years ago | (#27676099)

Ok, just seen that someone posted the same while i was typing my stuff... Mod me redundant :-)

Re:Astronomy (4, Informative)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#27676243)

The significance is that our methodology is improving. Only in the past decade or so have we been able to identify stars with possible planets. Only in the past year or two have we been able to directly image a planet (or separate it's image from the parent star). What we know of the planets is based on how close it's orbit is to the star, it's estimated mass, and in a few recent cases, based on limited spectroscopic information.

Now that Kepler's working, over the next 2-3 years we should have a flood of these reports. (keep in mind Kepler's only imaging a 10 x 10 degree patch of sky) In the next decade we will develop the means to directly image a nearby terrestrial sized planet.

All of the planets imaged so far are relatively close, on a galactic scale. A few 10's of light years. There's more than enough information out there to explain how far that is from a human perspective. Let's just say, that based on current technology, none of our great-grand children will get an up close look. (although I suppose we could do a fly by of something like the Gliese 581 system, with a probe, in the next 3-4 generations, if we tried hard enough.

Re:Astronomy (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676811)

technology, none of our great-grand children will get an up close look. (although I suppose we could do a fly by of something like the Gliese 581 system, with a probe, in the next 3-4 generations, if we tried hard enough.

The obvious problem being that any data collected and transmitted by such a fly-by wouldn't arrive on Earth for a few more decades after that.

but what about Earth 2... (4, Insightful)

squoozer (730327) | about 5 years ago | (#27675695)

This is very interesting but no where near as exciting as finding another Earth like planet. I suppose we will have to wait for the next generation of telescopes before we find it though.

What is a little surprising though is how many planetary systems we have found that are very different to our own. I can't believe ours is unique but perhaps it's quite rare.

Re:but what about Earth 2... (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#27675901)

This is very interesting but no where near as exciting as finding another Earth like planet. I suppose we will have to wait for the next generation of telescopes before we find it though.

Well the 'e' planet is somewhat earth-like in mass and possibly earth-like in composition. It's not in the habitable zone for the star, but the closer a planet is to the star the easier it is to detect, and this exoplanet is at the very edge of our ability to detect (thus why this is news -- smallest exoplanet ever found). So you're right, we'll have to wait for technology to advance to find earth-sized rocky planets in the habitable zone (especially of non-dwarf stars).

What is a little surprising though is how many planetary systems we have found that are very different to our own. I can't believe ours is unique but perhaps it's quite rare.

I'm not sure anything we've found suggests that our type of solar system is rare. The limitations of our detection method by and large assures we'd find systems different from our own first. Astrophysicists might not have expected to find gas giants very close in to stars, but if they exist, we were going to find those first. The two main things that seem to have changed to me are that 1) we've gone from having nothing but our own solar system as an example and thus assuming ours was the model for all of them, to have many more examples showing different types and 2) we've learned that solar systems seem to be pretty common.

If we get to the point where detecting a solar system like ours would be simple, and despite finding thousands of others we don't find any like ours, then maybe that points to rarity. Right now though I doubt we're anywhere near being able to say that.

Re:but what about Earth 2... (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 5 years ago | (#27676865)

I'm not sure anything we've found suggests that our type of solar system is rare. The limitations of our detection method by and large assures we'd find systems different from our own first. Astrophysicists might not have expected to find gas giants very close in to stars, but if they exist, we were going to find those first.

To elaborate on that (you covered the distance part, yourself), the main factors is detecting exoplanets right now are (1) its easier to detect bigger exoplanets, and (2) its easier to detect exoplanets closer to the stars they orbit. So, gas giants orbitting close to the stars are comparatively easy to detect, anything smaller and/or more distant is harder.

You can't generalize well from the results of a highly-biased detection system.

Re:but what about Earth 2... (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 5 years ago | (#27675933)

One in a thousand still means the galaxy has millions of earth-like worlds. "Rare" is relative.

Re:but what about Earth 2... (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 years ago | (#27676559)

It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

Re:but what about Earth 2... (0, Redundant)

nautsch (1186995) | about 5 years ago | (#27676893)

Whoa, that was wrong.

1. There is not an infinite amount of space
2. since when is infinity - x = something finite?

Re:but what about Earth 2... (2, Informative)

Kell Bengal (711123) | about 5 years ago | (#27675937)

Maybe our type of planet is just difficult to find because it's so (relatively) small?

Re:but what about Earth 2... (2, Informative)

flaming error (1041742) | about 5 years ago | (#27676151)

> This is very interesting but no where near as exciting as finding another Earth like planet.
Planet Gliese 581 e is an earth-like planet. It's just not in an earth-like orbit.

Planets and moons (3, Interesting)

nizo (81281) | about 5 years ago | (#27675719)

Gliese 581 d is probably too massive to be made only of rocky material...

Even if it isn't habitable, it might still be large enough to have a habitable moon perhaps?

Re:Planets and moons (5, Funny)

American Terrorist (1494195) | about 5 years ago | (#27676077)

Only if you eradicate the ewoks first. God those things are annoying. But hopefully tasty.

Re:Planets and moons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676529)

Only if you eradicate the ewoks first. God those things are annoying. But hopefully tasty.

Fortunately, the Massassi were already eradicated.

Re:Planets and moons (4, Informative)

Robotbeat (461248) | about 5 years ago | (#27676181)

One interesting thing about Gliese 581 d not being made of rock is that it might have almost the same surface gravity as Earth:

Volume of a sphere=(4/3)*pi*radius^3
radius of sphere=((.75/pi)*volume)^(1/3)
volume=mass/density
radius=((.75/pi)*mass/density)^(1/3)
mass=7.5*mass of earth
density=2kg/liter (twice that of water)

acceleration due to gravity=Gravitational constant*Mass of planet/(radius)^2

thus, plug this into google=
(Gravitational constant)*(7.5*mass of the earth)/((7.5*mass of the earth)/(2kg/liter)*.75/pi)^(2/3)

google gives us: 9.7764354 m / s^2

Yay!
Now, we just need a breathable atmosphere! And light-speed spaceships (or faster)!

Re:Planets and moons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676185)

Nah, it's too close to its star to be habitable.

A habitable moon... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676287)

Wait a minute... that's no moon... it's a^H^H^H^H

Bah you bastard! You set me up!

Re:Planets and moons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676321)

That's no moon...

Re:Planets and moons (0, Redundant)

lazyforker (957705) | about 5 years ago | (#27676579)

Gliese 581 d is probably too massive to be made only of rocky material...

Even if it isn't habitable, it might still be large enough to have a habitable moon perhaps?

That's no moon.

Good news (5, Funny)

KingPin27 (1290730) | about 5 years ago | (#27675725)

"could even be covered by a large and deep ocean â" it is the first serious "water world" candidate" .. Good.. I wonder if we can export Kevin Costner.

Re:Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27675853)

The best evidence of a âoewater worldâ would be the discovery of Smeat!

Re:Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676701)

I just thought it funny that it said " it is the first serious "water world" candidate," by someone named UDRY! Sorry but it gave me a laugh

Water Worlds hmmph! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676853)

Did anyone else notice that this report of a water world is by someone named "Udry"? Really, I rent trailers at U-Haul, but
a water-covered planet from U-Dry?

Call me when we find an auric world. (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#27675727)

Water worlds always have the crappiest minerals. Oh look more alkalines. Yay. It won't be worth spending the fuel to land on Gliese 581 d, much less the cargo hold space. Gliese 581 e might have iron and other metals, but being so close to the star it probably has major hot spots. So that's probably not worth landing on either until we meet the Melnorme and buy some tech off them.

Oh well. Eliminating planets to explore is good too. There's a lot of stars in the sky, you know, and only so much time to explore them before the UrQuan return.

Let's blow this popsicle stand (2, Interesting)

benwiggy (1262536) | about 5 years ago | (#27675801)

Only 20 years away? So, by the time global warming gets catastrophic, we can already seed another world.

Meh.

As in Moonraker, we send the sexy geniuses first, right? Or do we send the Telephone Sanitizers and hairdressers, like in HHGG?

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (2, Informative)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about 5 years ago | (#27675867)

Yeah, if we were able to travel at the speed of light.

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (1)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | about 5 years ago | (#27676073)

By who's observation?

Don't the actual passengers get there in a few hours, their own time, or something crazy like that?

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (1)

nizo (81281) | about 5 years ago | (#27676419)

By someone standing on either Earth or the destination planet? Though it just occurred to me, I find it cool that to the photons from my lcd monitors I am traveling towards them at the speed of light.

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#27676983)

With current technology, speeding up and slowing down would each take at least months. If you managed to get up to 0.5 c, the trip (for the passengers) would take more than 34 years. If you got up to 0.9 c, the trip would take more than 9 years.

Very close to c, the trip would be nearly instantaneous (for the passengers).

(I assumed that gravity equivalent acceleration would be quite a feat, and used the table here:

http://www.fourmilab.ch/cship/timedial.html [fourmilab.ch]

)

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27675919)

You thinking about a career in hairdressing or telephone sanitation?

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#27675951)

As in Moonraker, we send the sexy geniuses first, right? Or do we send the Telephone Sanitizers and hairdressers, like in HHGG?

Well according to the travel register, you're booked on the first flight! Take that however you want.

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (-1, Redundant)

Smelly Jeffrey (583520) | about 5 years ago | (#27676041)

The phrase "20.5 light-years away" should be read "20.5 years away, traveling at the speed of light."

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676493)

No it shouldn't read that way. A light-year is a valid unit of measurement, which is derived from the distance one travels in a year at the speed of light. But that doesn't make "light-year" an invalid derived measurement.

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (1)

icebrain (944107) | about 5 years ago | (#27676823)

Who the hell modded this insightful? While parent seems to have an understanding of what it means, the light-year is an internationally-accepted unit of length. Everybody knows what it means. His pedantic rephrasing of it is redundant, if that...

Re:Let's blow this popsicle stand (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 5 years ago | (#27676901)

Who the hell modded this insightful? While parent seems to have an understanding of what it means, the light-year is an internationally-accepted unit of length. Everybody knows what it means. His pedantic rephrasing of it is redundant, if that...

The post it was responding to clearly interpreted "20 light-years" as 20 years travel time, so GP's explanation that it was 20 years if and only if travelling at the speed of light, something we are notably incapable of doing at the current time, was, taken in context, neither "pedantic" nor "redundant", but perfectly appropriate and relevant.

Better hurry! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676241)

You do realise that the universe has an awkward tendency to expand, right?

So it's 20.5 lightyears away *now*...
We better get going quickly!

*packing bags*

Strange biology (1)

allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) | about 5 years ago | (#27675823)

Since actual detection of a planetary spectrum is yet to be achieved, it's all still guess work. But it would be fun to imagine what kind of compromises biology would have to make in high gravity planets, that is if they made it beyond single cell organism stage. Even then, life would to have to find a way to deal with the increased amount of elements on a super earth.

Re:Strange biology (1)

SpitfireSMS (1388089) | about 5 years ago | (#27676227)

Thats what makes me wonder why we are considering this dwarf star a candidate in the first place.
Why wouldnt we start with stars that are most similar to our sun.

Doesnt the white dwarf occur after the supernova explosion? Or something like that? Im no astronomer.

Wouldnt that mean that it EXPLODED and ENGULFED an area much larger than its current size, potentially destroying all life that could have been on these planets anyway?

Re:Strange biology (3, Informative)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#27676409)

It's a red dwarf, not a white dwarf. Red dwarfs could be thought of as small low-energy stars. They're more numerous and last longer than Sun-like stars. It's a gimme -- because it's nearby, less massive, and produces less light, it's easier to see stuff around it.

compromises? (1)

mevets (322601) | about 5 years ago | (#27676387)

Maybe Life had to make compromises for low gravity planets, like earth, and finds it much easier to organize in high gravity planets with a lesser amount of elements (whatever the hell that means). Humility is a virtue.

Did any one else read that as... (1, Offtopic)

Saint Stephen (19450) | about 5 years ago | (#27675845)

Did anyone else glance at Gliese and read that as uncomfortably close to Goatse.cx?

By the way, off topic, as it is, how does one prevent from being fooled by tinyurl links to goatse.cx?

Re:Did any one else read that as... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676049)

By the way, off topic, as it is, how does one prevent from being fooled by tinyurl links to goatse.cx?

Dont click on tinyurl links

Re:Did any one else read that as... (3, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | about 5 years ago | (#27676113)

On the tinyurl site you can choose to have a preview page that shows you the actual url when you click on one of their link (storing the preference as a cookie iirc).

Extraterrestial life (1, Insightful)

modrzej (1450687) | about 5 years ago | (#27675913)

To state banally, once again it appears that Earth isn't the center of the Universe, or even an extraordinary spot. Sadly, mankind won't be ever capable of communicating with such a distant places. However, speculation about extraterrestrial life isn't pointless. In range of our capabilities and, moreover, not forbidden by limiting condition on light speed, is a spectroscopic measurement of atmospheres belonging to planets beyond the solar system. Thus, in principle probable, it would be a great achievement to find traces of organic matter.

Re:Extraterrestial life (4, Insightful)

furby076 (1461805) | about 5 years ago | (#27676091)

To state banally, once again it appears that Earth isn't the center of the Universe, or even an extraordinary spot. Sadly, mankind won't be ever capable of communicating with such a distant places. However, speculation about extraterrestrial life isn't pointless. In range of our capabilities and, moreover, not forbidden by limiting condition on light speed, is a spectroscopic measurement of atmospheres belonging to planets beyond the solar system. Thus, in principle probable, it would be a great achievement to find traces of organic matter.

Those are some bold statements: 1) Considering how many planets we have looked at and that we can't find life on any of them this makes Earth very extraordinary.
2) Not ever be able to communicate with distant places? You don't know what we will invent in the future. It may come out tomorrow, or it may come out in 300 years - but to say "never".
3) Speculation about other life is not pointless - it feeds our soul and imagination to wonder if there is something else. If humans thought exploring was pointless we would still be living in Africa, definitely never have crossed the ocean, let alone landed on the moon (something that people, 100 years ago, thought was impossible)

Finding organic material will be hard short of landing on the surface. We couldn't even do searches of Mars without sending a robotic device there, and even then it may miss something. It's hard, and may not get done in our lifetime (thought it might) but it is certainly not pointless or impossible, and considering how rare life is we should consider ourselves (and our planet) to be very rare and special, though hopefully not unique.

Re:Extraterrestial life (3, Interesting)

Domint (1111399) | about 5 years ago | (#27676271)

1) Considering how many planets we have looked at and that we can't find life on any of them this makes Earth very extraordinary.

The only reason we are able to detect life on Earth is due to proximity - so you're just as guilty of jumping to conclusions as the GP. We've found planets that differ wildly from Earth because the easiest planets to detect are the fuck-all-huge ones. Just because we haven't observed Earth-like planets yet does not mean they aren't all over the bloody place. They're just rather hard to spot with current technologies.

Re:Extraterrestial life (1)

modrzej (1450687) | about 5 years ago | (#27676303)

"Considering how many planets we have looked at and that we can't find life on any of them this makes Earth very extraordinary." I was talking rather about size and material a planet is made of. With respect to this, it seems that there could be many earth-type objects. Is life on Earth extraordinary? Couldn't say that basing on scientific data. This question is not well-posed because theres no data yet. "Not ever be able to communicate with distant places? You don't know what we will invent in the future." Majority of planets we already discovered orbit stars so distant that it's not possible to actively communicate (two partners to form dialogue) because of the limit imposed by theory of relativity on light speed.

Re:Extraterrestial life (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | about 5 years ago | (#27676497)

Finding organic material will be hard short of landing on the surface

If we do an absorption spectrum reading of the atmosphere, which can be done at astronomical distances, and find free oxygen that would be a strong evidence for life on that planet. Oxygen is so reactive that it wouldn't exist very long in a planet's atmosphere before combining with something, unless here is a process like life to replenish it.

Re:Extraterrestial life (1)

shma (863063) | about 5 years ago | (#27676539)

Considering how many planets we have looked at and that we can't find life on any of them this makes Earth very extraordinary.

You are wrong about this. From the hundreds of planets we have found, we can easily extrapolate that there are many, many more planets (and many more rocky planets, as well) in the solar system than we have thought (maybe even 1 per star!). That makes the fact that we haven't found life yet on the planets we've searched for irrelevant. If there are a billion planets out there, we have to search a lot more before we can say definitively that life is rare in the galaxy.

Re:Extraterrestial life (2, Interesting)

SpitfireSMS (1388089) | about 5 years ago | (#27676143)

Finding organic living matter on other planets would be fantastic, but unfortunately that wont be the first kind of extra-terrestrial life we find (prospective there is any).
Our most advanced instruments are just now able to detect exoplanets, and soon enough they may be able to actually scan the surface for signs of life.

If we COULD send instruments there that could detect microscopic living organisms, we might actually have a lot better luck at finding life.
This just isnt feasible currently, and were going to have to stick with superficial surface scanning for creatures crawling around until we can actually send instruments there that could report back.

If we did find intelligent life, I think it would be a good idea to send a rocket with a screen and dvd player or something, with a big red button on it that plays it. Imagine being on Earth 200 years ago and finding something similar, with videos of aliens and things.
It would have been revolutionary, and eventually we may be able to greet another intelligent race in a similar fashion.

Oh the possibilities..

Re:Extraterrestial life (5, Funny)

nizo (81281) | about 5 years ago | (#27676449)

I think it would be a good idea to send a rocket with a screen and dvd player or something, with a big red button on it that plays it.

Yeah, because if a big thing from another planet lands and I look inside and see a big red button attached to some unknown device, I'm gonna just press that puppy right away :-)

Re:Extraterrestial life (2, Funny)

phosphorylate this (1412807) | about 5 years ago | (#27677009)

You wouldn't but I would, then I'd lick the casing. My dog might even widdle on the side of the probe or hump one of its legs.

I'm pretty sure one constant throughout the universe will be that life invariably leads to unbelievable stupidity.

Re:Extraterrestial life (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 5 years ago | (#27676615)

If we did find intelligent life, I think it would be a good idea to send a rocket with a screen and dvd player or something, with a big red button on it that plays it.

One of the fascinating free books I've been able to find for my Sony ereader was a short story "Test Rocket", I think it was called. We sent up a rocket with a mouse as a test. It disappeared. Several years later, an copy of the rocket came back, made out of materials "not of this planet" and three times the size of the original, containing what appeared to be a human.

Except he couldn't speak or communicate.

(In case the meaning was lost in summarizing, THEY are much bigger than we are and to them humans are just "laboratory mice".)

Re:Extraterrestial life (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 5 years ago | (#27676145)

You've got a pretty bleak outlook there. I don't actually have much faith in anything,but the one thing I do have faith in is the achievements that mankind is capable of.

Re:Extraterrestial life (1)

Samrobb (12731) | about 5 years ago | (#27676221)

Sadly, mankind won't be ever capable of communicating with such a distant places.

Did you even bother to read the summary? The star is about 20 light years away. That's a 20-year round trip for radio communications, sure... but we are currently capable of communicating with "such a distant places" (sic). We have been for the better part of a half a century.

Re:Extraterrestial life (2, Funny)

palindrome (34830) | about 5 years ago | (#27676613)

The star is about 20 light years away. That's a 20-year round trip for radio communications,

40 years round trip. That's a long time to wait for a response. Imagine we sent out a message announcing our presence and saying hello:

"Hello? This is humanity, we are [blah, blah - lots of info about us and Earth]..." ..... .....

40 years later and you get the response:

"Hi!"

How pissed would you be?

Re:Extraterrestial life (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 5 years ago | (#27676665)

Actually, it would be much wiser to simply continue to talk for the whole twenty years than dialog like that. You would give the recipient a lot of information over that time, and hopefully they would reciprocate.

Re:Extraterrestial life (1)

palindrome (34830) | about 5 years ago | (#27676813)

"Hello? This is humanity, we are [blah, blah - lots of info about us and Earth]..."

Was meant to signify that a lot of information would be sent.

I'm not sure that it would be "wiser" to talk for 20 years, though, mainly because that's plainly ridiculous. You wouldn't actually be doing some form of interstellar radio show you'd probably use binary to transmit information - 20 years worth of raw data would probably be excessive.

Re:Extraterrestial life (2, Insightful)

kegger64 (653899) | about 5 years ago | (#27676667)

That's a 20-year round trip for radio communications, sure... but we are currently capable of communicating with "such a distant places" (sic). We have been for the better part of a half a century.

Radio communication was invented in 1960?

"famous system Gliese 581"?!?!? Huh? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676013)

Slashdot editors get PAID for what they do?

I guess that's a good sign. Because if such a benighted group of anencephalic twits can run one of the net's busiest sites, the world must be doing damn well.

Everything except orbit and mass is speculation (4, Interesting)

Morgaine (4316) | about 5 years ago | (#27676149)

The science of extra-solar planet detection is very interesting, but speculation about surface conditions that might exist doesn't reflect the science at all, it's just fodder for the media and bloggers.

The only things we know are extremely rough estimates of orbital parameters and mass, although the host star is well characterised. The speculation is conjuring up quite specific images in people's minds, and while fun, they're not justified. It's leading people without an astronomy background astray.

Re:Everything except orbit and mass is speculation (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 5 years ago | (#27676257)

"'The holy grail of current exoplanet research is the detection of a rocky, Earth-like planet in the 'habitable zone' -- a region around the host star with the right conditions for water to be liquid on a planet's surface', says Michel Mayor from the Geneva Observatory, who led the European team to this stunning breakthrough."

Indeed. Who do these scientists think they are, making their work sound interesting?

We get it already! (1, Informative)

glwtta (532858) | about 5 years ago | (#27676159)

Ok, so they seem to have gotten pretty good at finding planets that are bigger than Earth - is it really necessary to announce every [slashdot.org] single [slashdot.org] one [slashdot.org] of [slashdot.org] them [slashdot.org] ?

Re:We get it already! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676283)

Yes! And sometimes, you'll get the same announcement more than once (in case you forgot).

SCIENCE!

Oblig. That's no Exoplanet... (1, Funny)

JoshDM (741866) | about 5 years ago | (#27676217)

... it's a Beowulf Cluster.

What, you were maybe expecting something else?

'lighest'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676305)

Wouldn't the correct term actually be 'least dense', since the word light implies weight, not density?

Re:'lighest'? (2, Informative)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 5 years ago | (#27676985)

No. The correct term is lightest. The writers are not making any indication about density in the summary. They are indicating they they have indeed found the lightest planet discovered using these techniques. This planet wouldn't even be close to being the least dense planet ever discovered. Gas giants are typically far less dense.

(having to wait my obligatory five minutes between posts)

Less than twice ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676533)

A vital question arises : does it have less than twice the problems of Earth ?

Rocky!?!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676603)

Screw That. Its Time to buy a Hummer and go Rock Crawlin! RAWR!

water world?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27676835)

I think it's kind of dumb to speculate (or even mention) that planet "d" could be a "water world". He's saying that only on the basis that the planet lies within the "habitable" zone where liquid water can exist. Ok, so liquid water can exist but there might not be any water at all. Or if there is, there could be continents sticking out of the ocean beneath the gaseous outer part of the planet.

Sayint that a planet that could be a "water world" because it orbits at the right distance for liquid water to exist is like saying "ohhh planet xyz is the same size as the Earth so it probably has land and oceans and air".

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