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136 comments

THEN THIS IS GOOD NEWS !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33389532)

But How Can I Profit From It?

The first? (1)

gwjgwj (727408) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389612)

The first? I thought, that the Solar system was the first.

Re:The first? (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389646)

Actually, all this means is they finally found a star system where they were viewing planets along (edge on to) the plane of ecliptic, and therefore able to measure multiple planets actually cross the disk of star.

Which suggest all the other multi-planet systems were viewed somewhat orthogonal to the ecliptic, because there are no shortage of multi-planet systems.

Re:The first? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390026)

But we can do that with the local one, too - two inner (relative to us) planets semi-frequently traversing our star, and there's also this one nearby which does that every few hours ;)

Re:THEN THIS IS GOOD NEWS !! (0, Redundant)

stms (1132653) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389650)

But How Can I Profit From It?

That's an easy one
1. Find a Solar system with multiple planets transiting the star.
2. ???
3. ???
4. Profit!

3 Step NOT 4 Step (2, Funny)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391846)

You are hereby served notice regarding your improper use of the UGI patented "Steps to Profit Process". The UGI (Underpants Gnomes International) have established that all profit step processes must be a "3 Step Processes" and must take the form of

  1. Action
  2. ???
  3. Profit

If you continue to use your bastardized 4 step process legal action may follow.

IAAUGL

Re:THEN THIS IS GOOD NEWS !! (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389702)

Such a shot of perspective might help you profit in the knowledge that profit is really a pretty meaningless and petty pursuit....

Re:THEN THIS IS GOOD NEWS !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33389810)

So that knowledge may profit you, is what you're saying? Awesome.

Frist Pest (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33389534)

OMG!

Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (4, Insightful)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389594)

The exoplanets search is the most exciting thing in space exploration since the moon landings IMHO for one important reason: one day, a project like Kepler will find an Earth sized planet orbiting within a foreign star's habitable zone. It's the stated goal of the project, yes, but when it actually happens, things will be different.

Imagine what the day will be like when we find something like that. We'll know it's there, we'll know it's the right size and at the right distance from its star, but we'll know little else. We'll know that life very probably *could* exist there, but without getting much, much closer to it, we'd never know for sure.

And we're not talking about the extremely remote possibilities of microbial life on Mars, or some kind of funky aquatic life on Europa's hypothetical subsurface ocean, we're talking about plants and animals. Maybe even intelligent animals like us.

What could possibly be a better motivator for our society to start pushing the limits of propulsion technology again? If we had something *tangibly* interesting to explore in a relatively nearby star system, like the ones Kepler is exploring, we might just get that extra kick in our pants we need to start innovating again.

WWII motivated us to enter a brand new energy age with the development of atomic power and the perfection (I'll use that term loosely ;)) of rocketry. Would discovering a planet in another star system with a high degree of habitability give us the motivation we need to efficiently produce and harness antimatter or some other next-generation power source?

Yeah, I'm being all misty eyed here. Relativity is a pesky little fucker, among other issues. But I can't shake the feeling that we're an amazing species of innovators when properly motivated. And I just don't think exploring other star systems has captured our collective attention the way landing on the moon did.

I desperately want to see us that motivated again some day. And I think finding a reasonably high enough probability of habitability on a planet orbiting a foreign star would give us back what we let slip away from us in the 1970s.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389656)

Yeah, I'm being all misty eyed here.

Its not exactly like this is the first time we've discovered other solar systems with planets. And this discovery speaks nothing about habitability.

Its too soon to book your flight.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389904)

Ignore this guy. I will happily sell you a first-class seat on my spaceship for $100,000. Cash or money-order only, please.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (0)

Michael D Kristopeit (1887500) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389664)

I just don't think exploring other star systems has captured our collective attention the way landing on the moon did.

landing on the moon doesn't capture the collective attention the way landing on the moon did. what's wrong with earth? why the need to leave? lots of open space left if you don't like your neighbors. the motivation you're looking for can only be obtained by first destroying the earth's ecosystem, or convincing others the destruction is inevitable.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (3, Insightful)

RetroGeek (206522) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389936)

Hmmm, I am not sure if you are only dangling a hook to see if anyone bites. However...

Nothing wrong with the earth. However it is the only place where humanity exists. If we get hit by an extinction level event (ELE), be it an asteroid, super volcano, or whatever, then that is that. We need to have a plan B. And forget about the moon or Mars. We do not have the know-how to create a self-sufficient environment there or anywhere else. We need a nice friendly planet in the Goldilocks zone.

And destruction is inevitable. An ELE WILL happen. It is just a matter of time. The earth has had a lot of near misses lately, one of which was only discovered after it had passed us. So forget about mounting some faint hope expedition. If you can't see it coming...

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389984)

We do not have the know-how to create a self-sufficient environment there or anywhere else. We need a nice friendly planet in the Goldilocks zone.

If I were to be, then my money would be on us reaching the technology to create a self-sufficient environment on, say, Mars much earlier than us reaching the technology to send anything other than a robotic probe over interstellar distances.

This is simply because travelling interstellar distances pretty much requires the technology to create a quasi-self-sufficient environment ... or warp drive technology.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393556)

Unless we can figure out the kinks in Cryogenics. I mean keeping something frozen in space isn't all that difficult. All that's required is enough power to keep the timer online for the thousands of years it takes to travel the distance, and then wake up when the time is right.

With the advances in Medicine we've been seeing, and I mean that in the broad sense of bionics and stem cells and genetics and all that stuff, it's not unreasonable to think that we might reach a state where its possible for someone to survive a deep freeze.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (3, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389998)

Thing is: for vast, vast majority of "ELE" type events, it would be best to dig - to survive here on Earth (or rather "under" it). Because, except for very few, your typical ELE still doesn't make the Earth less hospitable (especially when saving as many humans as possible within achievable effort - don't be surprised with "think of the children" especially in such circumstances) in comparison to what's probably nearby.

Yes, a backup of sorts will be nice eventually - but this bonus won't be why we'll do it. Not with huge distances, not with physics of this Universe (we cannot assume some breakthrough, even if it would be very nice to have); almost dictating that colonization will be only via hops to nearest systems (and probably via autonomous embryo ships at that; barely any "full" living humans actually making the journey). Or even without much directed effort at all - just via spreading, over many millenia, also to Oort cloud of our system...which at some point makes "jumps" to Oort clouds of nearby systems relatively easy.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33392132)

so why are we trying to dig these miners out of the mountain in Chile again? I thought it was for this purpose?

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393502)

we cannot assume some breakthrough

And if you did, you can just as easily assume the same breakthrough would enable us to bypass the ELE right here: divert the asteroid, plug the volcano, or just build a massive orbiting space station. Life's easy once you assume that the laws of physics are negotiable.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Michael D Kristopeit (1887500) | more than 3 years ago | (#33394088)

so when i say it's best to stay on earth, and point out the obvious truth that the only reason to leave is total destruction or the belief of it's inevitability, that comment gets moderated down, but when you say the same thing as a response to a response to my comment, then it's "Interesting".

science isn't about working towards a goal... that is research and development. the types of pure sciences required to make moving to a new planet work will not be realized under the motivation of inevitable destruction.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Michael D Kristopeit (1887500) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393848)

an extinction level event (ELE) WILL happen.

another person choosing the "convince people the destruction is inevitable" angle...

you can't prove to me that humanity hasn't simply chosen not to tell you where and how it exists elsewhere, because there is no reason for you to know, and many psychological reasons for you not to know.

We need to have a plan B

i don't need a plan B. stop trying to preach.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

bhartman34 (886109) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393164)

Human beings need the ability to leave Earth eventually, because eventually, Earth will be uninhabitable. It might be tomorrow, 5 years from now, or 650 million years from now, but something will happen which reboots Earth (at the very least). The only real question is whether it will happen on a timescale that allows some survivors to escape.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Michael D Kristopeit (1887500) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393690)

so you are going with the "convince people the destruction is inevitable" angle.... much easier than actually destroying the earth's ecosystem....

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (5, Interesting)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389696)

Hehe, your post kind of rubbed in a sentiment I got at work earlier today when I first read this story on Spaceflightnow. Something finally clicked, while I was sitting there at my cubicle, that we are literally probing other solar systems for planets. Did you play Mass Effect? I am sure someone here did. What about Star Wars Rebellion? Does anyone remember how most of the systems in those games are mostly unexplored. The entries in the galactic database, or whatever, were a few short paragraphs describing what conditions were probably like on the planet, but no explorers had ever returned to find out. I remember when I played those games I would click through the text unthinkingly so I could go blow some shit up. But when I was sitting at my cubicle reading this story today, it hit me:

Kepler is literally writing those first few galactic database entries for us. Some years from now, be it years, decades, or centuries, when our ancestors are poking around other solar systems, they are going to be pulling up a few scant words describing the likely surface composition and climate data of some of these planets. They will pull up the mass estimates and other numbers associated with each body before dropping onto the surface of the planet to update/verify the database. They will literally be using the information gathered by Kepler and its successors to give them some insight about what they are going to step into.

Does that register with anyone else? We are literally starting to compile a database on planets in other solar systems, so that one day explorers will have something, no matter how small, to refer to when stepping into the unknown. We are writing our own version of Mass Efffect's Codex. When that dawned on me today I almost crapped my pants. Sure folks, we joke about instant communication and flying robot overlords being signs that we literally are living in the future, but holy mother of crap, we have a spacecraft, on orbit, sending data down to us right now that is compiling data on systems that we hope to one day explore. That just makes my heart flutter to think about. Our infantile species, that leaped into orbit only half a century ago, can start to seriously consider studying, and maybe one day exploring, extra-system planets. Say what you will about how stupid and hopeless humans are, but I'll be damned if something like the Kepler mission doesn't make me gasp at how amazing a species we can be....

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389714)

Sure folks, we joke about instant communication and flying robot overlords being signs that we literally are living in the future, but holy mother of crap, we have a spacecraft, on orbit, sending data down to us right now that is compiling data on systems that we hope to one day explore.

Right now, I'd be happy enough if that compiled list would be used to find targets to point an even BIGGER freakin' telescope at. One that could give us data on those planets atmospheric composition, etc.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390074)

Some years from now, be it years, decades, or centuries, when our ancestors are poking around other solar systems

^when choosing to say "when" (vs, "if"), I suspect it's better to also say "...centuries, or millenia"
Because, generally, do you see humans being used to gather more detailed data about planets, et al. in our own system? (a backyard, really) Hell, we even observe the Earth remotely / from space quite a bit.

Go a bit further (2, Informative)

aepervius (535155) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390352)

Change millenia for million of year. With current tech nearest solar system is 120.000 years away (250 K round trip). That is 4 something light year away. Since such system are likely much further away than 4.7 LY , then count a million years or more round trip. And before somebody serves me on "propulsion system will be better" you have no basis for this. The way the energy generation, and human space transportation are in forseeable future, it ain't even sure we will visit the NEAREST star system, maybe a robotic probe would.

Re:Go a bit further (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390530)

Yeah, I'm still trying not to push depressive realism too much ;) - especially when journeys in the range of dozens or hundreds of thousands of years can be pretty much dismissed - apart from a basic problem of preventing any container from leaking everything stored inside, there's also the issue of finding motivation for such monumental project & allowing resource drain on the system. And why I suspect elsewhere how perhaps embryo colonization could be workable; or probably simply an organic spread towards Oort cloud over many millenia, ever further, untill some humans will make a relatively easy jump to cloud of some nearby star.

Re:Go a bit further (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33392776)

The first thing we'll have to get over in our quest to explore other solar systems will be that there will be no such thing as a "round trip."

Re:Go a bit further (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 3 years ago | (#33392888)

And before somebody serves me on "propulsion system will be better" you have no basis for this.

You're wrong. The great trend of technology is that they will be better. *YOU* have no basis for saying they won't be since, by far, technology continues to make every means of transport more advanced.

Be a cynic all you want. No one really cares. But to say that something of this nature has no basis in reality is not a logical conclusion from what you can reach out and experience for yourself today.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (4, Funny)

InfiniteZero (587028) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390096)

when our ancestors are poking around other solar systems

I think you are confusing space travel with time travel.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393296)

That's what I get for posting at midnight before falling asleep.

Here, let me take care of my own /facepalm for you.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Suhas (232056) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390104)

Some years from now, be it years, decades, or centuries, when our ancestors are poking around other solar systems, they are going to be pulling up a few scant words describing the likely surface composition and climate data of some of these planets.

Our ancestors will be poking around? Oh, you meant to say that time-travel would have been invented by then...my bad. Carry on.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

shikaisi (1816846) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390564)

Kepler is literally writing those first few galactic database entries for us. Some years from now, be it years, decades, or centuries, when our ancestors are poking around other solar systems, they are going to be pulling up a few scant words describing the likely surface composition and climate data of some of these planets. They will pull up the mass estimates and other numbers associated with each body before dropping onto the surface of the planet to update/verify the database. They will literally be using the information gathered by Kepler and its successors to give them some insight about what they are going to step into.

... and then they will click by unthinkingly so they can go and blow some shit up.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391394)

The entries in the galactic database, or whatever, were a few short paragraphs describing what conditions were probably like on the planet, but no explorers had ever returned to find out. I remember when I played those games I would click through the text unthinkingly so I could go blow some shit up.

Of course, the cynic in me sees the future human just clicking through that galactic database crap so they can go blow some shit up...

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

mrops (927562) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391694)

when our ancestors are...

I know you were all excited and mentally living in the Star Wars Rebellion, but really, I don't think our ancestors are coming back to life anytime soon.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33393954)

Yes, so amazing we have pop music and sluts.

When the majority of the Human population can control animal instincts and desires I'll agree with you about how "amazing" our species can be - until then we are still nothing but chimps with tools.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (3, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389698)

What could possibly be a better motivator for our society to start pushing the limits of propulsion technology again?

I think our best bet at getting more information about these planets is pushing the limits of telescope technology again. As in having linked telescopes at opposite ends of the solar system and similar projects. That way, we won't have to make those pesky trips over tens or even hundreds of light years.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390178)

To be fair, we're pushing it all the time - in recent times sort of more than ever (though yes, more resources being directed at such pursuits instead of at, well, waste would be nice). And I don't think aiming outright at system-wide interferometer would get us far; there are many very juicy and much smaller (viable within foreseeable means) projects to be made.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390408)

And I don't think aiming outright at system-wide interferometer would get us far; there are many very juicy and much smaller (viable within foreseeable means) projects to be made.

A big radiotelescope and maybe a couple of optical/IR/UV ones on the far side of the moon would be a good start.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33389708)

Sorry but even if we find a planet the right size and right temp it won't change much. Humanity is ruled by religion not science right now.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

The Fanta Menace (607612) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389926)

All it will take is one alien visitation to put an end to that.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33389970)

No some fool will claim the Aliens are god.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (0)

weicco (645927) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390090)

You heretic! God created the aliens. Who are we to question the workings of god?!

I can't seem find sarcasm tag so just assume it's there.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390082)

I don't know; humans weren't supposed to exist on the antipodes, remember? (admiteddly, how they were percieved as less advanced helped)

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

uofitorn (804157) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389724)

Sounds like someone just read Coyote! (http://www.amazon.com/Coyote-Allen-Steele/dp/0441011160/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282892695&sr=1-1) Or if not, then needs to! I did not care for the book but my brother loves it.

Imagine what the day will be like when we find something like that. We'll know it's there, we'll know it's the right size and at the right distance from its star, but we'll know little else. We'll know that life very probably *could* exist there, but without getting much, much closer to it, we'd never know for sure.

Essentially, the book touched on this same theme. A ship of colonists departed from Earth because an Earth like planet had been discovered. However, little else was known about it other than that it could potentially support life.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390148)

If your description of the premise is accurate, it seems like a not very rational thing to do... (within constraints of this discussion of course, when remembering about the realities of our Universe) A technology to build interstellar ark is available and not put to use towards better remote sensing methods / sending relatively cheap & small probes, which could get at the destination in a fraction of the time when using the same propulsion tech?

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391668)

While I agree that sending a probe is a good idea... This is a common theme in science fiction: Send a colony ship to a star system known to contain a potentially habitable planet, without knowing if the colony will be viable or survive. They might get there and find a virtual Eden. They might find a wholly uninhabitable planet offering little chance for survival (oops, did we send them to a planet whos surface is partially molten and atmosphere is toxic... oh well, we'll try somewhere else.)

Makes for a good story.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (3, Interesting)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389760)

The problem is if the rules of the universe dont enable us to get there in any practical way. That feeling and motivation could turn into something very negative, and against us (heck, could be a great poster from Despair Inc, a nice blue planet picture with something like "Humanity never will get even close to it")

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (4, Interesting)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389802)

The problem is if the rules of the universe dont enable us to get there in any practical way.

People used to say that about the moon. "Escape velocity is impossible to reach!" they'd say. Escape velocity wasn't impossible. It was a puzzle to be solved. I prefer to look at Relativity and faster than light travel the same way. Maybe one day we'll solve those puzzles. I still have hope. I guess I'm an optimist.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389992)

People used to say that about the moon. "Escape velocity is impossible to reach!" they'd say. Escape velocity wasn't impossible. It was a puzzle to be solved.

Actually, it was mostly a matter of building a BIGGER freakin' rocket.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390044)

It was realised (by few) for quite some time how it seems possible - at the least, the physics didn't appear to work against our efforts too much. No such comfort with interstellar distances yet, and we can't assume it will come. [tufts.edu]

BTW, how's that inspiring part with manned lunar missions works so far?

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

thue (121682) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390098)

Stupid people said that. Intelligent people knew it wasn't so, and did it.

Reaching other star systems in a reasonable amount of time is actually impossible, given current and foreseeable tech.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390784)

Stupid people said that. Intelligent people knew it wasn't so, and did it.

Reaching other star systems in a reasonable amount of time is actually impossible, given current and foreseeable tech.

So people in the 1800s were stupid for thinking that reaching escape velocity was impossible given their current and foreseeable technology at the time? How is that any different than you saying reaching other star systems in a timely fashion is impossible given current and foreseeable technology?

Is there going to be someone like you making an argument like that in every propulsion era? I can see the next Slashdot argument now, set in a hypothetical future where inter-stellar travel becomes normative:

Stupid people said that reaching other stars in a reasonable amount of time was impossible. Intelligent people knew it wasn't so, and did it.

Reaching other galaxies in a reasonable amount of time is actually impossible, given current and foreseeable tech.

Physical limits vs. technological limits (4, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390882)

So people in the 1800s were stupid for thinking that reaching escape velocity was impossible given their current and foreseeable technology at the time? How is that any different than you saying reaching other star systems in a timely fashion is impossible given current and foreseeable technology?

The only limits in the 1800s were technological. Given enough development in stronger and lighter materials, escape velocity became possible.

The light of speed limit is an ultimate physical limit of the universe. The first hint of this limitation was found in 1887 [wikipedia.org] and has been confirmed many times in many different ways. Simply put, given all the experimental data we have, if faster than light travel were possible time would be bidirectional; causality would be violated.

This does not mean FTL is absolutely impossible, maybe we will one day find a flaw in our current understanding of physics that will let us travel faster than light. However, the resultant implications would be so huge that travelling to distant stars would perhaps be one of the least interesting things to do with our new physics.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

Game_Ender (815505) | more than 3 years ago | (#33394164)

It's also possible our "conventional" science and industrial means will extend to the point at which can build ships large enough and with enough fuel to make the journey's the hard way: sublight travel. Either putting people in suspended animation, having people that live for 100's of years, creating a self sustaining colony on the ship while it travels, etc. Heck, even with our current tech we could do this, it would just require a tremendous fraction of the earth's resources, mainly because its so hard to get into orbit.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33390406)

The problem is if the rules of the universe dont enable us to get there in any practical way.

Nonsense. The rules of the universe say we can get there in practically no time at all for the people actually doing the traveling; and that's just old fashioned 100 year old special relativity. Add in what may very well be quantum and/or GR shortcuts (tunneling drives or Alcubierre drives or whatever) and "the rules of the universe" practically give us the ability to go wherever we want.

Granted, we don't have the technology to build anything so exotic at the moment, but the underlying science says the universe is ours for the taking.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391468)

The rules of the universe aren't against it. We know this because we could get there now if the political will was there - a generation ship using nuclear pulse propulsion could comfortably sustain 0.1c, at which point we could colonise the galaxy in maybe 200 million years.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

delt0r (999393) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393088)

Well perfect fusion engines can get you say 1-10%c. That's doable for space probes. Antimatter is also theoretically possible. The efficiency bound for antiproton production is at least 1%, then 50%c and higher becomes something we can talk about. Then there are beamed energy proposals.

We really don't need new *physics* to reach the stars.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389774)

What could possibly be a better motivator for our society to start pushing the limits of propulsion technology again?

The better motivator would be if it looked like the Russians/Arabs/Koreans/anyone-not-USA was going to get there first. If NASA wants to enter the space race again they need to start siphoning some money off to the competitors to kickstart their space race.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389820)

I guess we'll just have to pick a fight with the people who live there.

Worlds War III (sic) should be motivation enough to invent the equivalent of nuclear power for propulsion.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389896)

Knowing humanity, we'd be more likely motivated to launch a first strike at that planet then anything else

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390398)

Imagine what the day will be like when we find something like that. We'll know it's there, we'll know it's the right size and at the right distance from its star, but we'll know little else.

We know very little about exoplanets right now because they are detected by indirect means. When we find an earth-like planet in the habitable zone that will be a strong incentive to build a telescope capable of observing it directly.

The moment we start direct optical observations of a planet we will be able to analyze the spectrum of its reflected light. The spectrum will tell us something about its atmosphere, if there's free oxygen there the planet is almost certain to have life.

That, my friend, will be the greatest incentive for developing science the earth could have.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390458)

Seeing in what style the moon landings were performed / how they ended, I don't think striving for similar approach of "exciting" & "capturing our collective attention the way landing on the moon did" would be a good thing...

Especially since we shouldn't expect any new physics (which would be required; "hope for" - sure, why not...but not "expect"). Without it (a strong possibility), any means of travel won't be very palatable to hopes of popular imagination of most of humanity. Moonshot had it easy, by comparison - the goal, when seriously stated, could be reasonably expected to be achieved withing a generation or two; the travel itself taking on the order of one week.

Interstellar reality is quite different when talking about plausible approaches, with technology at least probably within our reach. Quite possibly nobody alive at launch (and providing virtually all of the funding & resources...) will see returns even from small & fast unmanned probe launched to even the nearest systems. Resource and energy limits might also mean that any colonization will be via relativelly small and fast autonomous embryo ships (perhaps, apart from robots, also with a very small grown human team in hibernation, to get the colony going; doesn't change much) - at least with such approach there's some chance of launching one regularly, every few decades; hopefully at least "this will be our children" can work, because travel time of minimum few centuries won't work in favor of many types of motivation...
Or we'll just take our time to spread to Oort cloud over many millenia, and at some point some of our descendants will make a relatively easy "jump" thanks to Oort clouds of passing stars sort of intersecting...

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33390542)

When I read about this, I immediately thought about Songs Of A Distant Earth (haven't read the full book, but the few-page draft in The Sentinel), with its sleeper ships cruising at 1/10th c to other stars.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391582)

I think the major hurtle for humankind is our inability to think/plan long term. Our puny lives are only 70-80 rotations of our planetary orbit. Our organizational systems do not seem to be able to handle 5-10 years let alone 40 or 50 years. 100 to 300 years?

As you say relativity is a bitch, which is likely why we haven't been contacted already. It is either impossible, or so difficult and life on average so short lived that the distances and time involved make it at the very least impractical. I also do think we can't make things that last a long time either, so making autonomous robots or something is also a long way off.

However I did like your post, and I do agree that it could polarize or focus some of our population with fascination. However I think one of the larger problems to be overcome is the simple fact that the sentiment "that's all very well and good, however we have more pressing problems here on Earth" will continue to trump those that wish to explore. Unless something dramatic happens, and I mean BIG, the path that we are following only leads to more hardship and ruin. Food. Population. Resources. Too much of one, and not enough of the other two, which inevitably leads to conflict and war.

Anyway not trying to be cynical, but that is what I see for our immediate future, and I have seen nothing that would change or alter our course yet.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (2, Interesting)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 3 years ago | (#33392680)

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/technology/warp/scales.html [nasa.gov] Just an obligatory reference to the warp drive when: scales page to remind everyone just how far away even Alpha Centauri is. It turns out that the basic problem is one of fuel to accelerate us to a large enough fraction of c. The most practical choice seems to be an exceedingly large spacecraft built on Moonbase Alpha and ferried to the appropriate Lagrange Point Station manufacturing facility for further assembly. The only practical tech we have would be a scaled up version of Orion pulsed nuke propulsion. We would still need to build a very, very large ship, miles in length and then fill up almost the whole thing with hydrogen bombs. The conclusion on that page is that it is basically hopeless for any reasonable human timescale even if we could figure out a way to manufacture extremely large quantities of antimatter. An alcubierre type of drive that doesn't require fuel would be the only practical way. If such a drive were even theoretically possible it would give us a chance of visiting other star systems. As far as anyone can tell space drives are not possible and they never will be. I actually think we should give the Orion pulsed nuke idea another try.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (2, Interesting)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393102)

Right on! I'm maybe a bit less optimistic than you about the prospects of actual pace of technological developments that come from this, but I think it would provide a tremendous psychological shift if we could point to a specific dot and be able to say, "Yeah, right there. That's another habitable planet. There could be life there. *WE* could go there." Even if it's centuries or more likely millennia away, it'd be a great imaginative boost. If nothing else it could provide a lot of specific details for fiction: the number of planets in the system, the name of the star, the location and distance from Earth, stuff like that.

Re:Exoplanets vs. inter-stellar travel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33393380)

Space disco.

Go on, rub it in why don't you? (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389600)

Imagine how Pluto feels. You rotten, cruel bastards. Go on, rub it in why don't you?

Re:Go on, rub it in why don't you? (4, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389738)

Stop anthropomorphizing the Trans-Neptunian objects.

Re:Go on, rub it in why don't you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33389832)

Stop anthropomorphizing the Trans-Neptunian objects.

You forgot to say "they hate it when you do that".

Re:Go on, rub it in why don't you? (1)

juletre (739996) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391050)

Stop anthropomorphizing the Trans-Neptunian objects.

They hate it when you do that!

Re:Go on, rub it in why don't you? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389798)

Imagine how Ceres feels! Same horrible fate as Pluto, but a bit sooner so nobody cares anymore.

Re:Go on, rub it in why don't you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33390508)

Yeah, man. It must be feeling like a dog...

Perspective (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33389606)

It's becoming more obvious that planetary systems are the norm, rather than the exception. As our ability to detect smaller companions increases, we'll nostalgically look back on the time when we were amazed that we detected planets at all (like the reports of "canali" on the surface of Mars).

At that point, we'll realize that our situation- and our solar system- is not some snowflake like miracle, but rather a portion of a larger pattern. I think that will be good for us (or some portion of us that does not rely on Specialty for validation).

Re:Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33389716)

Interestingly, this [eso.org] article from 2 days ago says they've found 5 stars orbiting a star (possibly upto 7 confirmed stars).

Re:Perspective (3, Insightful)

AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) | more than 3 years ago | (#33389912)

I never doubted that actually, i found it amazing people actually thought that of all those stars out there were without planets, it didn't make sense to me to assume such a stance

Re:Perspective (1)

delt0r (999393) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393198)

It has always been assumed that they had planets, or that its at least common on stars with the right composition and no close binary partner. But since we had only one set of observations, ie here. A lot of protoplantary disk dynamics was blind guess work. Now its just guess work.

We have already learnt some interesting things. The number of large Jupiter size planets that are in close orbits is much higher than expected. So migration after formation seems to be more important that first suspected (Uranus IIRC migrated quite a bit)

Re:Perspective (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390134)

I believe also that planets are very common throughout the galaxy but the dry and strict scientist in me keeps reminding that these planets are only detected on the closest stars (I think in the 500 ly radius ?). So maybe a local condition for creating planets exceptionally happened in the neighborhood. I don't believe it, but that is still a possibility.

Re:Perspective (2, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390304)

Actually, the most distant discovered is 20k light years away, and near the center of Mily Way to boot (so not really a case of local conditions; actually, the conditions might be better there, with higher metallicity); with a possible detection also in the Andromeda Galaxy and even in YGKOW G1, 3.7 billion light years away.

Re:Perspective (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391428)

mod parent up !
Oh, okay, nevermind then, turns out I was right to believe it was the case :-)

Re:Perspective (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33390922)

maybe a local condition for creating planets exceptionally happened in the neighborhood. I don't believe it, but that is still a possibility.

Given that we can see stars very similar to those near us even in other galaxies, I don't think it's likely that the conditions in our neighborhood are so special. The planets are formed in the same process that formed the star, a star similar to ours should also have planets.

cheap replica handbag (-1, Offtopic)

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Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33391014)

I m affraid this not the first, since chillian European telesope (ESO) found the first planetary system on August 2010 the 24th :

http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1035/

too late yankees !!

7 month? (1)

gnesterenko (1457631) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391058)

Pardon me for asking, but considering our very own planet orbits the sun every 12 months, 23 months on Mars, and something like 130 or 140 for Jupiter, aren't we only starting to scratch the surface in terms of which ones we've seen and which ones just haven't happened to have passed between us and the star since we started looking. On top of that, would an orbit perpendicular to ours be detectible with this technique - as in, if a star had planets but in an orbit that never took them between us and their star - would not these be missed? Or is there some sort of wobble effect they can measure if the planet is big enough?

"The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."

Re:7 month? (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391136)

Pardon me for asking, but considering our very own planet orbits the sun every 12 months, 23 months on Mars, and something like 130 or 140 for Jupiter, aren't we only starting to scratch the surface in terms of which ones we've seen and which ones just haven't happened to have passed between us and the star since we started looking.

Yes. The longer you look, the more longer-period planets you will find.

On top of that, would an orbit perpendicular to ours be detectible with this technique

Not with this technique, but yes, if the planet is massive enough and close enough to its star, it is possible to detect it by the "wobble" is causes. Also, even if a planet does not transit, it is possible to detect it by observing the radial velocity (i.e. towards/away from the observer) of the parent star by measuring the red shift/blue shift of its light.

However, planets that transit are the most interesting ones right now, because it is possible to detect small planets by this method, as well as analyze their atmospheres by looking at how the spectrum of the parent star changes when the planet transits.

Title (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 3 years ago | (#33391154)

Kepler Spacecraft Finds System With Multiple Planets Transiting the Star

Is there a special "Star" that I don't know about?

RINGWORLD and other artificial structures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33391700)

So what would Kepler see if a Ringworld happened to be on edge to us? (yes I know it's dynamically unstable).

Also, in the Ringworld Universe there was also a bunch of nearer orbiting structures that provided power and a day/night cycle. While Ringworld is unstable, these might not (think Kepler Rosette). Or perhaps some large structures in a planet's Trojan points.

What I'm getting at is that we might soon be able to detect passive artificial structures around other stars made by civilizations NOT MUCH MORE ADVANCED THAN OURS. The reason why "passive" is important is because instead of say, a radio beacon, such a structure when built could conceivably last for EONS with little maintenance. So even if the creators are long dead, durable easily detectable indicators will still exist.

And they could be (relatively) cheap! I'm thinking that planetary sized objects, while seemingly way beyond our technology, might not be completely in the realm of science fiction. Several "geo-engineering" proposals to defeat global warming involve the creation basically of solar shields spanning thousands of kilometers, placed in space between the earth and the sun. Who knows, if these were made of ultra-thin opaque sheets (like solar sails), they might be detectable by a device like the Kepler space telescope. Their close proximity to an earth sized object in "the goldilocks zone" would suggest strongly they were not a chance natural phenomenon.

So 1) I'm hoping the researchers have an open mind when looking through their data and 2) eventually the RAW data will be released so that anyone can pore through it!

Irritated by Slashdot's anti-Apple bias and hostility? (A recent example, they post anti-iPad tirades but don't mention negative reviews of flash on mobile devices: laptopmag.com). Don't log in (don't give them and their advertisers your info, remain an A/C).

Planets or Worlds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33392272)

This is why I think the IAU messed up when they defined "planet". The worlds in our solar system should have been categorized in a much broader sense so that we could use the same framework for new and undiscovered solar systems.

Plus, why does Mercury (a flaming hot lifeless rock) get to be a planet but Titan (a world with a thick atmosphere and possibilities for life) doesn't? Which one is more interesting?

Kepler capabilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33392760)

To give this find some perspective, here are a few details on Kepler-9.

Distance from Earth: 700~ parsecs (around 2000~ light years)
Orbital period of possible Earth-sized (1.5x) planet 9c: 1.6 days

If 9c isn't a planet, and is actually a binary companion to the star, this would be quite interesting, and strange, given its probable mass and composition.

So essentially, with Kepler, we can spot an orbiting body of a star that is 1.5x the size of Earth, with an orbiting period of 1.6 days, that is ~2000 light years away. Granted this was a transient path discovery, but the capabilty of Kepler has come through here, and we should all be excited. Our technology has really shown through here folks. Take a few seconds to recognize this new step in Astronomy.

source: NASA broadcast announcement from 8-26

Can we detect planets in a perpendicular plane? (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#33393056)

The Slashdot summary, talking about the objects passing in front of their stars, got me to wondering:

* Is there any probability that there are stars out there whose planets orbit in a plane which is perpendicular to our line of view (that is, the planets would never cross in front of their star, from our point of view, because we are sort of looking at the their orbits top-down? It would seem that this is likely, seeing as their are stars which, from our point of view, are at every degree of latitude and longitude from the earth.

* Is there any sort of 'bias' which tends to cause stars in our galaxy to form their planetary orbits within a few degrees parallel to a common plane? (For example, perhaps most stars have spin which is parallel to the plane of the galactic disc of the Milky Way, because the galactic motion of the matter maybe pre-disposes matter to spin and orbit that way)?

* Can our current extra-solar planet searching activities detect planets which are in such perpendicular planes to our line of view?

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