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179 comments

EArth sized first post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438032)

The first earth sized first post!

I put this planet through every test... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438066)

Turns out, it was from my own solar system. Too much glare

Re:I put this planet through every test... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438202)

Joseph Smith? Is that you?

Good news (2)

zero.kalvin (1231372) | about 2 years ago | (#38438084)

Congratulation to NASA. I hope there is a plan for Kepler 2.0!

Re:Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438774)

not if obama can help it

Re:Good news (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 2 years ago | (#38439508)

There was, but Congress won't fund it. Instead, they traded it for a few packages of Depends underwear, a tax cut for their donors, and a massive interest payment.

Re:Good news (3, Interesting)

Maritz (1829006) | about 2 years ago | (#38440666)

Sadly the closest thing to this would have been the Terrestrial Planet Finder [wikipedia.org] which was a superbly ambitious programme and it's a real shame that it's finally been cancelled after having been mothballed for what seems like ages now. Hopefully Kepler's results with either get the programme going again or provide impetus for a similarly ambitious programme. Ideally we should have a technology that can bring spectrometry to bear on a distant world and give us the chemical composition of its atmosphere. If for example free oxygen were detected that would be incredibly compelling evidence for life as you wouldn't expect to find free oxygen without a process that continually creates it (like photosynthesis).

We need to mount an expedition (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#38438100)

"but also something just a touch smaller — a Venus." If there's a Venus and no known Mars... then does that mean it's all women? Sign me up!

Re:We need to mount an expedition (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#38438234)

"but also something just a touch smaller — a Venus."

If there's a Venus and no known Mars... then does that mean it's all women?

Sign me up!

Yea, they're sure to be really hot!

The smaller of the two planets, dubbed Kepler-20 e, is about the size of Venus, with a radius 0.87 times that of Earth. It orbits its star every 6 Earth days and sits at a temperature of 1,040 Kelvin — hot enough to vaporize any atmosphere and leave a solid hunk of silica- and iron-rich rock. Kepler-20 f, the larger planet with a radius 1.03 times that of Earth, has a 20-day orbit. As a result, it is a bit less scorching, at 705 Kelvin. At that temperature, says Fressin, hydrogen and helium wouldn’t survive in the atmosphere, but a shroud of water vapour might.

Re:We need to mount an expedition (2)

kungfugleek (1314949) | about 2 years ago | (#38438268)

Yea, they're sure to be really hot!

It's almost 1000 light years away. After a trip that long, *any* woman is going to look hot.

Re:We need to mount an expedition (4, Insightful)

lennier (44736) | about 2 years ago | (#38439384)

hot enough to vaporize any atmosphere

Isn't an atmosphere already vapour kinda by definition?

Re:We need to mount an expedition (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 2 years ago | (#38440908)

Yes, but after the atmosphere has been vaporized, the only way to get any messages through is to rot-13 them twice.

Re:We need to mount an expedition (1)

TekPolitik (147802) | about 2 years ago | (#38441088)

sits at a temperature of 1,040 Kelvin — hot enough to vaporize any atmosphere and leave a solid hunk of silica- and iron-rich rock

Come on, I can't be the only one that has a problem with a reference to vaporising an atmosphere.

Re:We need to mount an expedition (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | about 2 years ago | (#38438956)

"but also something just a touch smaller — a Venus."

If there's a Venus and no known Mars... then does that mean it's all women?

Sign me up!

Have you learnt nothing from all your years of watching Star Trek? The women are all blue or green, have 3 breasts, and want to KILL you!

Re:We need to mount an expedition (3, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#38439956)

Have you learnt nothing from all your years of watching Star Trek? The women are all blue or green, have 3 breasts, and want to KILL you!

You know, I was ok with the transporter, and with warp drives going faster than light, but the idea that any outworld species would look anything like us whatever is ludicrous. And most movie and TV sci-fi does it.

I fight bad sci-fi with more [slashdot.org] bad sci-fi. [slashdot.org]

Oh, and you're confusing Star Trek with Total Recall or HHTGT; I don't remember ever seeing the triple breasted whore of erotica in Star Trek, but she was a Martian in Total Recall, but a Martian decended from humans who had three tits because she was a mutant. Far more believable than a Human-Betazoid hybrid (the subject is covered in the two linked stories).

Re:We need to mount an expedition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38440180)

At least in Star Trek, life forms being so similar was explained. Life was seeded throughout the galaxy by a single "super-race".

Zzzzzzz (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438138)

"The planets, called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are too close to their star to be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface"

Re:Zzzzzzz (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438354)

Yes, that is a bummer, but consider the other things we have learned, primary among them the fact that solar systems do not always form like ours with the rocky planets closer to the sun. This has major implications for theories of solar system formation, see http://www.astronomy.org/astronomy-survival/solform.html especially point D.
In addition we can all revise our estimates of the Drake equation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation) :-P

Anonymous Astronomy Geek

Re:Zzzzzzz (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#38438476)

You want to revise everything based on 2 data points? Out of billions/trillions/way-too-many-for-2-points-to-matter?

Yikes.

Re:Zzzzzzz (4, Insightful)

burning-toast (925667) | about 2 years ago | (#38438664)

When you have a sample set of 1; then adding 2 data points is a fantastic expansion in scope even if we are quite positive that we do not have all of the potential information (soon to be discovered). At this early stage, finding a handful of other planetary systems has effectively multiplied what we know about planetary systems a thousandfold or more, even if we consider ourselves to be mostly blind still.

- Toast

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#38438948)

The current sample set is 8. Not 1.

Re:Zzzzzzz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38439084)

8 planets, 1 solar system. This telescope has shown a couple solar systems and a few planets that are in violation of the current assumed way a solar system forms. Not just these planets, but we've also seen gas giants in close orbits to their star. We have enough data to start doubting the assumptions made when we had only what we could see with ground-based optical telescopes.

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#38440634)

No, the current sample set is either four or five (earth, venus, and mars, plus these two exoplanets) or hundreds. Four or five for planets about the size of earth, depending on if you count Mars, or hundreds if you count all the known exoplanets.

Re:Zzzzzzz (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | about 2 years ago | (#38440006)

The problem with this thinking is the presumption there is only two data points. There are currently at least 19 different planetary systems [wikipedia.org] with at least three or more planets which can be used for a comparison, and almost everybody involved with extrasolar planets knows this is just the beginning of discoveries. All told, there have been over 700 different planets [exoplanet.eu] which have been confirmed outside of our little old Solar System.

I would say that is enough to begin some statistical models and try to come up with some general trends based upon real data besides the single data point of the Sun and its planets. More significantly, this seems to indicate that planetary systems around stars are quite common to the point that stars without planets seem to be an exception... particularly if those stars are solitary stars rather than in systems of multiple stars.

Admittedly we are still mostly blind about what is "out there", but the Kepler survey seems to be providing some real statistical information about how common planetary systems might be, and since so many of the Kepler telescope candidates seem to be found in groups of multiple planets, it seems very likely that one common presumption of planetary formation being in a disc-like structure seems to be holding out very well. What the Kepler survey is really good at doing is identifying candidates which can then be studied with better telescopes now that we know some properties of these particular planetary systems, or even that they exist at all.

Re:Zzzzzzz (2)

burning-toast (925667) | about 2 years ago | (#38440522)

You and I are in agreement. The poster I was replying to was indicating that we should not modify our theories until we get more data, I was countering that we definitely SHOULD be modifying our theories as we go, since we now have more than just the data on our own system. And when starting with just our own system, the next couple of systems discovered increases our available data by a phenomenal amount. Let the updating begin!

- Toast

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#38438722)

Better than basing all our theories on one data point, namely our own solar system, which is what we did before. Mostly still do in fact, since it is far better understood than any other system.

Want to revise everything based on 2 data points? (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | about 2 years ago | (#38439242)

The Vulcans did on just one Warp signature [imdb.com] (and Cochrane's smell of booze spanning the solar system, which does make a second data point). ;-)

Re:Zzzzzzz (5, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 2 years ago | (#38438588)

"The planets, called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are too close to their star to be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface"

Zzzzzzz??? Really??

Twenty five years ago, finding an exoplanet was considered to be some forward looking science that might not ever happen, and the belief then was that planets were likely quite rare. Ten years ago we'd found some planets, but they were all gas giants.

Now, we find a planet which is close to Earth in size, in a solar system with 5 planets in it, 1000 light years away That's some heavy stuff.

If you're incapable of understanding that this is actually pretty significant, maybe you should go back to your coloring books ... the estimate of the number of planets there are likely to be in our galaxy alone has likely gone up by several orders of magnitude in the last 20 years or so.

We're quickly changing from "oh there's likely not many planets" to "the universe is full of them" ... it's hard not to think that even if it's not what we'd call intelligent life, there's likely more than a few places that have evolved some form of life.

The more we see stuff like this, the more we see just how vast and astounding the universe around us actually is.

Re:Zzzzzzz (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438782)

Yup, really. Do you stare in amazement every time someone turns on lights? Why not? a few hundred years ago we were still using candles at night. Sure, finding a new planet, or a new rocky planet USED to be amazing, but its not any more. We've done it, we know we can do it. Now we need to find earth sized rocky planets in the habitable zone. Wake me up when that happens.

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38439230)

It's a sad, but essential truth you have spoken.
We have an insatiable desire for things new, moving us ever onwards towards the next shiny thing.
It's sad though that we can't enjoy it a little longer before the glow is gone and the heart empty once more.

Re:Zzzzzzz (4, Informative)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | about 2 years ago | (#38438944)

We're quickly changing from "oh there's likely not many planets" to "the universe is full of them"

I wouldn't quite say that.

I don't really think that the estimates of how many planets there may be has increased. Instead, our technology has increased so that we can actually start finding the planets that we've always assumed were there.

The somewhat-dubious values that Drake used in 1961, according to Wikipedia, include:
fp = 0.5 (half of all stars formed will have planets)
ne = 2 (stars with planets will have 2 planets capable of developing life)

The value given for ne seems to be rather optimistic, but it's still too early to have reliable numbers. It will be a long time before we can take any arbitrary star, and see exactly how many planets it has.

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#38439044)

Twenty five years ago, finding an exoplanet was considered to be some forward looking science that might not ever happen, and the belief then was that planets were likely quite rare.

I am old enough to remember twenty-five years ago quite well, but I do not recall a belief that planets were likely quite rare. Rather the opposite, that unless there were giant planets orbiting a system (which we had a hope of detecting), there might likely be more smaller planets (which we had little hope of detecting at that time) than in our solar system.

Re:Zzzzzzz (4, Interesting)

lennier (44736) | about 2 years ago | (#38439578)

>We're quickly changing from "oh there's likely not many planets" to "the universe is full of them" ... it's hard not to think that even if it's not what we'd call intelligent life, there's likely more than a few places that have evolved some form of life.

The more we see stuff like this, the more we see just how vast and astounding the universe around us actually is.

And yet, if General Relativity is correct, there's still no conceivable way for a planet 1,000 lightyears distant to have any kind of communication with us, or us with them, without a two-millennia time lag. And that's just for extremely high-power/sensitivity radio signals, let alone any kind of matter-based probe. I for one find that picture of the cosmos incredibly depressing: there's potential neighbours all around, but no possible way to communicate until our civilisation crumbles.

That's really why I hope that General Relativity is not, in fact, correct in its pessimistic assumptions about lightspeed being the final arbiter of causality and that there's some kind of cosmic loophole which would allow interstellar trade and travel for beings with humanlike lifespans.

Otherwise, no matter how many exoplanets or other wonders we find in deep space, the sensible logical implication is that we should ignore them because they could never have any causal impact on our civilisation. (Other than downloading some alien DNA from radio signals and using it to breed an alien-human hybrid Hot Chick, which science fiction tells us is always an excellent idea with no possible complications.)

Re:Zzzzzzz (4, Insightful)

Graymalkin (13732) | about 2 years ago | (#38439802)

the sensible logical implication is that we should ignore them because they could never have any causal impact on our civilisation

What? It doesn't matter if we can have a direct conversation with alien life forms. The important discovery would be the simple fact that they exist. As of this moment our own planet is the only one in the whole of the universe that we know life exists on. Just finding a second one would be one of the great discoveries in our species' history. It's a bit silly on your part to suggest that such a discovery wouldn't in fact have a significant effect on our civilization.

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38440354)

And yet, if General Relativity is correct, there's still no conceivable way for a planet 1,000 lightyears distant to have any kind of communication with us, or us with them, without a two-millennia time lag.

I guess that depends on the point of view of the observer. If we had a craft capable of it, and a crew willing to go, they could travel from here to there in 25 years from their vantage point. They could go, make contact and be back in just over 50 years of their time. The fact that you are annoyed that you'd be dead by then because you'd still see it as 2 thousand years and change doesn't matter much to them.

In addition, it may be safer to make contact in person. A craft can redirect itself and arrive at a trajectory that does not give it's origin away. Directed energy communication can be followed directly back to us.

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

Yaotzin (827566) | about 2 years ago | (#38439734)

It's exciting, and certainly one step closer, but not really THAT exciting for your average person. I agree with the GP, wake me when they find something closer to the mark.

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#38440218)

Twenty five years ago, finding an exoplanet was considered to be some forward looking science that might not ever happen, and the belief then was that planets were likely quite rare.

And twenty five years ago I could never understand why they thought planets would be rare, since there were nine of them in our own solar system. If Earth was the only planet around our star, thinking that planets would be rare would have been logical, we have so many planets (and smaller rocks) that the logic isn't there.

Perhaps it's the "I refuse to believe it until I see it" factor.

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 2 years ago | (#38440806)

I've never understood the thinking of those who assume that planets and life etc must be rare or non-existant elsewhere.
I've always subscribed to the Fullerist philosophy that the smaller something natural is, the more common it is in nature.
As such, there should be more stars than galaxies, more planets than stars, more rocks than planets, more grains of sand than rocks and so on.
It only goes that microbes and advanced like should exist elsewhere -- I don't think the lack of evidence precludes that. In fact, I think anyone who woud say the lack of evidence means that extra-terrestrial life is unlikely is just being foolish. Just as foolish as the kid who start crying when his mom leaves the room because she suddenly ceased to exist.

Re:Zzzzzzz (1)

Maritz (1829006) | about 2 years ago | (#38440728)

Kepler 22b [wired.com] might be more up your street - its surface temperature appears to be a balmy 22 degrees Celsius. In addition it seems unlikely to be tidally locked (not being too close to its parent star), and its surface gravity while opressive compared to Earth isn't too over the top compared to other 'super-earths'.

Multiple telescopes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438162)

Would such planet-finding missions be more successful if there are more of these telescopes, at the cost of being able to peer less farther into space. I'd be much more interested in finding an earth sized exoplanet 50-100 ly away than this, if only we could be looking at more space and closer rather than less space and farther.

Re:Multiple telescopes? (3, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#38439262)

Kepler detects transits - i.e., only planets that happen to pass in front of their stars as seen from Earth. That is going to be pretty rate. If you had two Keplers, you (or at least I) would point it at another patch of sky, to get more samples.

Here is a way to think about the math - the radius of the Sun is about 1/200th the radius of the Earth's orbit, so for some random observer in the galaxy (or for us, trying to find something like Earth), there is only about a 1 in 40,000 chance that transits will occur and, of course, for Earth they will happen once per year, so it's going to take 3 or 4 years to really confirm it (and get a good handle on the orbit). Kepler is looking at 145,000 stars with a nominal mission length of 3.5 years, so it has a decent chance of detecting one or a few Earth-like planets in Earth-like orbits, if almost every stellar system has such a planet. (That choice of mission parameters is, of course, no accident.)

Now, for these new Kepler-20 guys, the orbital period of the Earth-sized planet is 20 days, so you only have to wait maybe 60-80 days to confirm it, and the orbital radius is much smaller, so the probability of transit is much higher. (If the orbital radius is 10 stellar radii, this probability is about 1%, or hundreds of time larger than for a true Earth analogue).

So, putting all of that together, you would expect Kepler to spot hundreds of hot Earth's for every Earth analogue it seems (assuming both are more or less equally common out there) and that is, more or less, what is happening. (Of course, we won't know about the objects in Earth type orbits for a few years yet.)

Remember the good ol' days (-1, Troll)

Metabolife (961249) | about 2 years ago | (#38438204)

When stars used to be named after important scientists, and not machinery.

This is like naming Euclid's Algorithm: Wax Engraving - 2024

Re:Remember the good ol' days (5, Funny)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#38438300)

Um, what? What exactly do you think Johannes Kepler [wikipedia.org] was, a washing machine?

Re:Remember the good ol' days (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38439054)

As he didn't suck he sure was no vacuum cleaner!

Re:Remember the good ol' days (2)

lennier (44736) | about 2 years ago | (#38440028)

Um, what? What exactly do you think Johannes Kepler [wikipedia.org] was, a washing machine?

I don't know, I've never keppled!

Re:Remember the good ol' days (1)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#38440108)

Hmmm...+1 for obscure reference but -1 for forcing the fit just because their names start with the letter "k". Finally, +1 for keeping your head about you.

Re:Remember the good ol' days (4, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about 2 years ago | (#38438368)

When stars used to be named after important scientists, and not machinery.

Ummm ... as much as Kepler is the name of the device, Johannes Kepler [wikipedia.org] laid out the mathematics of orbits. You know, Kepler's Laws [wikipedia.org].

Naming stars Kepler-20 (or whatever) is naming them after important scientists ... and since it's looking for things which orbit, it's quite apt.

Re:Remember the good ol' days (1)

jamvger (2526832) | about 2 years ago | (#38439214)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but since planets form from a circumstellar disk, all the planets around a star are going to orbit in the same plane. So if Kepler finds one planet eclipsing its parent star, then all the planets around that star are likely to be in an eclipsing orbit, meaning Kepler will find all of the star's planets that are within its detection threshold.

Re:Remember the good ol' days (2)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#38439814)

Depends on the eccentricity of the orbits. Pluto, for example, would be almost impossible to detect since its orbit almost never crosses the plane of the orbit of the rest of the planets. (Just ignore the time scale for now.) If another star had passed very close while the planets were forming it could have induced a serious warp to the circumstellar disk and orbits could be all over the place. For that matter, I think Uranus's orbit is sufficient inclined from the ecliptic that it would probably be missed as well.

Re:Remember the good ol' days (1)

jamvger (2526832) | about 2 years ago | (#38440036)

I suppose distance matters as well - a slight tilt to even exactly co-planar orbits and the planets orbiting farther out might be missed as well.

Re:Remember the good ol' days (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 2 years ago | (#38441202)

Perhaps I'm being dense but why does the inclination of the target planet's orbit (relative to the other planets orbiting that star) matter? Can't a planet can be detected using the transit method so long as the orbit is one that causes the target to pass through our line of sight to the star?

Given the example of Pluto, I don't understand why it couldn't be observed by someone whose line of sight passes through both its orbit and the Sun. I must be missing something.

Re:Remember the good ol' days (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438424)

mod parent idiot.

Re:Remember the good ol' days (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438516)

We ran out of important scientists. This is the day and age where you dress a hundred "scientists" in lab coats and parade them like Soviet Russia paraded its military. "I have a hundred scientists on my payroll ready to back any of my agenda based claims. Bring it on if you dare!"

dupes? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#38438236)

Note the previous /. article on the similar topic was about Kepler-22, so I'm thinking this report about Kepler-20 is actually going backwards in time relative to the previous article.

Once again SIMBAD and exoplanet.eu have nothing.

http://exoplanet.eu/star.php?st=Kepler-20 [exoplanet.eu]

Re:dupes? (2)

arcctgx (607542) | about 2 years ago | (#38438344)

Apparently the number 20 was assigned earlier, when the larger outer planets were discovered in this system.

Note to all Science Fiction Writers (0)

invid (163714) | about 2 years ago | (#38438374)

All the interesting stars with planets within a few thousand parsecs are all going to be called Kepler nnn, where nnn is a number between 1 and 999. All intelligent species found in that radius will be called Keplarians.

Re:Note to all Science Fiction Writers (1)

chebucto (992517) | about 2 years ago | (#38438464)

Sadly, the Keplarians suffer near-endless civil war and discrimination, even of their own kind.

Re:Note to all Science Fiction Writers (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438510)

The Kepler telescope only has a relatively narrow field of view compared with the entire sky. So most near by planets will not be called Kepler-nc.

Re:Note to all Science Fiction Writers (1)

invid (163714) | about 2 years ago | (#38438642)

In that case I vote we call the next planet hunter Vorgon.

Re:Note to all Science Fiction Writers (1)

Whiteox (919863) | about 2 years ago | (#38439042)

That's VOGON not vorgon.....

Re:Note to all Science Fiction Writers (1)

invid (163714) | about 2 years ago | (#38440606)

Oops, my bad. Still, Vorgon would be a cool name for an alien species too. And their poetry might be better.

Re:Note to all Science Fiction Writers (1)

Maritz (1829006) | about 2 years ago | (#38440818)

Damn Keppies, comin' here, takin our jobs, assimilating our technology...

It could support life. (2)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about 2 years ago | (#38438402)

It could still have habitable temperatures if it was a tidally locked planet. The chances of that occuring increase as a planet approach it's star. Any life on such planets would certainly be interesting.

Re:It could support life. (1)

milindss (963310) | about 2 years ago | (#38438446)

Are you kidding me? I just saw someone on ebay selling one way Virgin Galactic tickets to this planet.

Re:It could support life. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38440158)

If you lived on the "leukwarm" ring where the temperature is comfortable, you would probably get some pretty serious wind blowing over your house!

Ancient history (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38438490)

The telescope is "seeing" the planet as it was 946 years ago ... maybe it's not even there any longer

Re:Ancient history (2)

WildBlueYonder (1714974) | about 2 years ago | (#38438728)

The telescope is "seeing" the planet as it was 946 years ago ... maybe it's not even there any longer

I know, planets these days are always picking up and vanishing without even saying good bye. First Ceres, then Pluto. Every morning I wake up I breathe a sigh of relief that the Earth is still here.

Re:Ancient history (1)

sackbut (1922510) | about 2 years ago | (#38439694)

The telescope is "seeing" the planet as it was 946 years ago ... maybe it's not even there any longer

I know, planets these days are always picking up and vanishing without even saying good bye. First Ceres, then Pluto. Every morning I wake up I breathe a sigh of relief that the Earth is still here.

Not a philosophy major with causality problems.

Re:Ancient history (3, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 2 years ago | (#38438832)

The telescope is "seeing" the planet as it was 946 years ago ... maybe it's not even there any longer

946 years on a cosmic scale is no more than a blink of an eye. The likelihood that any visible planet has merely vanished in that short a time is incredibly remote. Worrying about it would be like freaking out every morning before you go to work because the building just might have burned down overnight.

Re:Ancient history (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 2 years ago | (#38439254)

The likelihood that any visible planet has merely vanished in that short a time is incredibly remote.

Furthermore ... how the fuck is a planet supposed to vanish?
Seems your parent has very strange ideas about the laws of physics.

Re:Ancient history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38440164)

Do you worry that the sun might vanish overnight?

Short Years on these planets (1)

Rerracoon (955669) | about 2 years ago | (#38438532)

A six day long year on one and a 20 day year on the other? Imagine the New Years party! Barely recover from one and it's time for another!

apparent size (4, Interesting)

polar red (215081) | about 2 years ago | (#38438608)

the apparent size of this planet is the same as an object of 0.5 mm on the moon.

Re:apparent size (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38441178)

Now imagine a Kepler pointed in our direction.
Built with 100 times the money that NASA has available.
Yeah. That's what the CIA got.

Kepler is awesome! (1)

Schmorgluck (1293264) | about 2 years ago | (#38438672)

Seriously, not only did he set the bases of modern astronomy, but he still discovers planets 381 years after his death.

Yes, it's obvious. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#38438770)

Whizzing around the star Kepler-20, about 290 parsecs...

Just to give you all a sense of scale, the Millineum Falcon would have to be 24 times faster to reach it!

Margin of error? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 2 years ago | (#38438806)

Pardon my skepticism, but is the margin of error on this really so small that they can really claim to differentiate between a Venus and an Earth sized planet?

Re:Margin of error? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 2 years ago | (#38439160)

You don't mean margin of error I believe, but precision of measurement. And yes, the instruments are that precise.

Re:Margin of error? (3, Informative)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#38439388)

Yes. These are transit measurements. They see the drop in light of the star, or not. If they see it, they can estimate how much the intensity changes, which gives them the ratio of the area of the star and the area of the planet. They can also time the duration of the transit, which, together with the period between transits and some information about the star, gives them the star's radius, and thus the planet's radius. If you can detect the transit at all, you should be able to get all of these things.

Imagine what a 66 ft. Telescope could see! (1)

wisebabo (638845) | about 2 years ago | (#38438924)

"So here's (link at bottom) a surveillance telescope that DARPA is proposing to provide CONTINUOUS (that's what's new) real-time coverage of any spot on earth at a resolution of 3m (the example given was to detect Scud launches). Of course in order to do this, it would need to be in geo-sync orbit which necessitates a whopping big lens, in this case 66 FEET ACROSS!

So how come I've never heard about this "membrane optics" technology before? (From the picture it appears to be able to make the "lens" extremely thin and presumably lightweight. No word on how it could be folded or rolled up). I notice that it doesn't seem to have a sun-shade or cowling, doesn't this ruin the contrast? Most importantly, if it was pointed UP (towards deep space) rather than down (towards the ground) could it be used for astronomy? A 66 foot space telescope could be able to directly image earthlike worlds!

What's also interesting is that they claim that, at this resolution it would be able to monitor an area of 100km x 100km. That implies a gigapixel detector (not new but the largest I've ever heard being placed in space). Anyway, at (only!) $500 million, it's gotta be in the same price range as the latest "keyhole" spy satellites. Write your congressman today!"

http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/darpas-spy-telescope-stream-real-time-video-any-spot-earth [networkworld.com]

Re:Imagine what a 1.4M km telescope could see! (3, Informative)

Maritz (1829006) | about 2 years ago | (#38441070)

Claudio Maccone's proposal to use the Sun as a giant gravitational lens (FOCAL [centauri-dreams.org]) is pretty astounding. All you gotta do is send your satellite out to about 550 AU (easy peasy eh?) - I think I recall reading that if you were to train it on a planet in the Alpha Centauri system you'd be able to resolve cars in the street assuming there are cars and streets there (bound to be). Not easy to steer though, you'd need to know well in advance what you were aiming it at. One nice thing is that the focal length goes to infinity, so even if you're shooting further out (say 1000AU +) you're still able to get a great picture.

Now send a Google StreetView car there! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38439022)

It's amazing to know, that in our lifetime, we WILL see other planets in the detail of a street map, and we WILL see other intelligent life.
I just hope their TV is better and that we can learn something from them.

The Real Question (3, Interesting)

PortHaven (242123) | about 2 years ago | (#38439128)

Is not will we discover an earth gravity (size is meaningless, it's the gravity that's an issue) planet at earth temperature from it's sun, but when.

And more importantly, when will we find one with 25 light years from Sol.

NASA's primary focus right now IMHO should be giving out X-prizes for corporate achievement in space flight and endeavoring to devise means for reaching stars:

- how to get a probe up to near light speed.
- how to maintain communication with said probe (most likely via entangled diamonds)
- get us off this rock (within 150 years)

Re:The Real Question (1)

lennier (44736) | about 2 years ago | (#38440116)

- how to maintain communication with said probe (most likely via entangled diamonds)

Entangled diamonds are/aren't a girl's best friend.

Re:The Real Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38441048)

- how to get a probe up to near light speed.

Easy-peasy. Accelerate at a constant speed until you reach near light speed. NEXT!

- how to maintain communication with said probe (most likely via entangled diamonds)

Finished it yourself. NEXT!

- get us off this rock (within 150 years)

That's where the bad new comes in, monkey-boy. You see, the human race just isn't suited to travel in space. In fact, nothing carbon based is suited to it. We can get the probe there no problem, but the probe must be a self-fixing, self-replicating mechanical being. Homo-Cyber will explore the galaxy, not Homo-Sapiens. We will sit on our hairy butts and stare up at the heavens just as we always have. Welcome to evolution 101.

Jupiter Sized, Low Density Planets (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 2 years ago | (#38439602)

I'm hoping Kepler discovers some Jupiter sized planets, in radius and area, that are really low density, so their gravity is like Earth's - along with the atmosphere. They'd probably lack metals or any heavier elements, though they'd probably better have silicon if their crust is going to look like Earth's surface. If the planet has a moon or an asteroid belt nearby full of those missing elements, space mining might make for a really huge place for humans to spread out on in a familiar style.

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