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First Four Exoplanets of 2012 Discovered

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the mayans-predicted-them-of-course dept.

Space 36

astroengine writes "Only four days into the New Year and the first four exoplanets of 2012 have been spotted orbiting four distant stars. All four alien worlds are known as 'hot Jupiters' — large gas giant planets orbiting very close to their stars. Their orbits are aligned just right with the Earth so that when they pass in front of their parent stars, they slightly dim the starlight from view. The discovery was made by the The Hungarian-made Automated Telescope Network (HATNet) Project (maintained by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) consisting of six small (11cm diameter), wide-field automated telescopes based at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO), Cambridge, Mass. and The Submillimeter Array atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii."

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36 comments

First! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38588476)

Wow.

This year really will be the end of the world.
Imagine all the other planets we'll find this year.

I can't imagine what we'll discover by December 21st, 2012.
Hold on to your butts......

Amazing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38588478)

Anyone know what the real estate market is like there? I mean, after we build our spider-silk space elevator and have daily Shuttle service to the Moon (in three years or so according to the free market invisible hand), I'd like to retire in a bungalow on a Hot Jupiter and have tea with Elon Musk.

Re:Amazing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38589592)

Offtopic? This is spot-on for the quasi-religious space extremists on Slash...

"Hot Jupiters" (1, Offtopic)

james_van (2241758) | more than 2 years ago | (#38588554)

Sounds like an indie chick band.

Re:"Hot Jupiters" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38588644)

Sounds like an indie fat chick band. FTFY.

Dude, they're like, so MASSIVE!

Re:"Hot Jupiters" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38588980)

Instead of "Holy Moley" you can now say "Hot Jupiters!"

Re:"Hot Jupiters" (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589058)

Instead of "Holy Moley" you can now say "Hot Jupiters!"

Natalie Portman petrified on Hot Jupiter.

I know best of ... (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38588600)

I know "Best of whatever of this year" come often too early, but this is just silly.

Re:I know best of ... (1)

PIBM (588930) | more than 2 years ago | (#38588634)

Being the first four, I expect them to be early !

Re:I know best of ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38588650)

Huh? Where did "best" come from. It isn't in the summary.

Re:I know best of ... (1)

GreennMann (1525279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38592066)

How many more exoplanets need to be discovered for it not to be news anymore?

Hmmm ... (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38588688)

Not to nitpick (and because I'm curious), have these just been announced, or have they actually been discovered in 2012? It's not entirely clear from TFA.

Man, this stuff used to be practically sci-fi, now it seems to happen all the time.

Re:Hmmm ... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38588774)

Man, this stuff used to be practically sci-fi, now it seems to happen all the time.

Not to belittle these achievements but the state of the tech has developed. Direct imaging ala popular sci-fi is still a way off if it will ever be achieved but we have several good methods for determining the existence of exoplanets and a couple allow confirmation, so these discoveries will continue for the foreseeable future (or at least until all the big budget astronomy is culled due to the "economic crisis").

Re:Hmmm ... (1)

TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38590676)

Direct optical imaging *has* been achieved with Beta Pictoris: http://www.futurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/beta-Pictoris_1.jpg [futurity.org] . Also see the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Pictoris [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hmmm ... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38593570)

Direct optical imaging *has* been achieved with Beta Pictoris: http://www.futurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/beta-Pictoris_1.jpg [futurity.org] . Also see the Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_Pictoris [wikipedia.org]

Yes I'm aware of that, but a fuzzy blob of light is not "Direct imaging ala popular sci-fi" that I was speaking of. Very impressive, but not what I'm talking about.

I believe alien life exists in the universe (3, Insightful)

PingXao (153057) | more than 2 years ago | (#38588792)

The Drake Equation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation [wikipedia.org] way back when made me accept that the probability of life elsewhere in the universe was high. These exo-planet discoveries are not all that surprising to me. Furthermore the existence of these planets is inferred. It's not like the HST captured some cool pictures of them. In fact, it's unlikely anyone in the near future (for whatever defn of "near future" you care to use) will ever see these planets with their own 2 eyes, or travel to any of them.

In short, they're boring.

Re:I believe alien life exists in the universe (2)

cod3r_ (2031620) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589064)

it's still interesting to find them if you ask me. Especially when they start finding the "earth like" ones. I especially would like to hear what the hard core religious types say when the scientists can say beyond a shadow of doubt that we have found other planets that can definitely harbor life just like earth. It's obvious to me.. but surprisingly not to everyone.

Re:I believe alien life exists in the universe (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38590272)

Obligatory XKCD: http://xkcd.com/384/ [xkcd.com]

P.S.: It's obvious that other life in the universe must exist. The thing that must be tested for is if it *doesn't* exist. Cause that would be damn weird.
The only reason there are people thinking that way, is because they are so egocentric that they think the world revolves around them. And not long ago, they meant this quite literally.

Re:I believe alien life exists in the universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38592022)

The FOCAL [centauri-dreams.org] Misson could theoretically resolve exoplanets featuers of up to 1km. It works by sending a telescope 550 astronomical units out, and use the suns gravity field as one huge lens. With current technology it could be doable, though (very) expensive.

FLWO in Ariziona, not Cambridge, MA (2)

mwlp (2019424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38588824)

Another nit, FLWO is on Mount Hopkins in Arizona, not in Cambridge, MA. They wouldn't find the damn full moon if they were in Cambridge. http://www.sao.arizona.edu/FLWO/whipple.html [arizona.edu]

Re:FLWO in Ariziona, not Cambridge, MA (2)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589242)

FTFA:

The Hungarian-made Automated Telescope Network (HATNet) Project consists of six small (11-cm diameter), wide-field automated telescopes based at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, in Cambridge, Mass., and The Submillimeter Array atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

FLWO, as distinct from Cambridge MA, was the author's intent, I believe. Agree that the wording could be clearer. FLWO is owned and operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory [wikipedia.org] in Cambridge.

OT: What's the "Solar Meridian"? (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589050)

Maybe not entirely off-topic, since this story is from the "mayans-predicted-them-of-course dept." but someone sent me some "Real Mayan 2012" hooey, which said [aplus.net] (among the unfalsifiable new-age woo) this possibly falsifiable, possibly astronomical statement:

[Dec. 21, 2012] will be the start of a new era resulting from and signified by the solar meridian crossing the galactic equator and the Earth aligning itself with the center of the galaxy."

At sunrise on December 21, 2012 for the first time in 26,000 years the Sun rises to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic.

I'd like to debunk this shinola the only way that's conclusive (to me): rejecting the science. I couldn't even find a definition of "the solar meridian", though Google points to pages using it to mean a line from wherever the Sun is in the sky to the observer's zenith, and some other meanings related to a definition of the Greenwich Prime Meridian for defining standard time, and some uses meaning a semicircumpolar North-South line on the Sun itself, none of which seem to apply. So:

1. What is the solar median?
2. Can it cross the galactic equator (as seen from Earth)? Will it on 12/21/2012?
3. When the Sun rises anywhere (as seen from somewhere on Earth) on 12/21/12, will it rise close to the intersection of the galactic equator and the (Earth's) plane of the ecliptic?
4. Will 1 and 2 happen at the same time?

Re:OT: What's the "Solar Meridian"? (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589172)

The Galactic Equator would have to be razor thin to cross over in just 1 day. If there is some mysterious field at the Galactic Equator, we should be able to see it's interaction with our solar system before it hits us.

Re:OT: What's the "Solar Meridian"? (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589384)

Any equator, meridian or other line is infinitely thin.

I don't know about any mysterious field there. But Mayans were indeed excellent astronomers and calendarmakers. The ecliptic plane does intersect the galactic equator, and the Mayans reportedly marked those lines and that point [authenticmaya.com] , fairly prominently in their astronomy. Many ancient cultures, including all over the Eastern Hemisphere, marked days as special when the Sun rose or set at some point aligned with some other sky object, often marked with a calendarical artifact. So I wouldn't be surprised if the Maya noted the day that the Sun rose at that point along the horizon, even if that day were in the distant past (and/or future; these are cycles, as the Mayans knew).

So is that day 12/21/2012? Or is this latest hooey 100% hooey?

Re:OT: What's the "Solar Meridian"? (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38590264)

Either the Mayans are trying to predict some future event with their calendar, in which case they could have only recieved this knowledge from alien beings, or their calendar is just that - a calendar and nothing more.

Re:OT: What's the "Solar Meridian"? (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589922)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_phenomenon#Origins [wikipedia.org] As I understand it, the earth and sun line up with the center of the galaxy every year, and 2012 will be the first time in 25,800 years that this will happen on the winter solstice. This happens to coincide with the end of a 144,000 day cycle in the Mayan calendar.

I don't care about the first four (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589112)

I want to know what happens to the final five.

Re:I don't care about the first four (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589446)

No, trust me you don't. It's like asking what the Force is made of, or what happened to the Matrix. Luckily, there were no sequels. And before you object, you better read xkcd...

Re:I don't care about the first four (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589532)

What I really want is a flux capacitor and 1.21GW. The writers strike and cancellation rushed an ending that should have taken at least another season in to 10 episodes.

limites types for discovery (5, Interesting)

zerosomething (1353609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38589396)

To this layman the current system seems to rely on faster moving large planets. Most if not all recent discoveries are plants that orbit on the order of days. It's not likely we will find larger planets like those in our system with this method. Saturn takes something like 22 years to orbit the sun. You won't see many transits of longer orbit exoplanets in the typical astronomers career.

Re:limites types for discovery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38590748)

29.7 years.

Two things (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#38591746)

First, did anyone notice than man HATnet site hasn't been updated since 2006? Hopefully this is because they are doing actual astronomy.

To this layman the current system seems to rely on faster moving large planets.

I am a layman as well, but this system (as well as others) measures the brightness or magnitude of target star(s) over time to detect exoplanets. I would believe one of the methods of verification is to watch for repeatable dips in the magnitude. Otherwise it may just have been a cloud. With infinite targets, limited equipment, and limited time, it makes sense that the faster orbiting larger planets are found first. One, with a fast orbital period, you wouldn't have to wait years for a confirmation, plus larger planets, at least IMHO, would dim their parent star more, making for easier, more reliable detection. What amazes me it that the scopes themselves are just 11m aperture. That is a very small scope, I did not know you could do this kind of survey with that little light gathering power.

Re:Two things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594218)

What amazes me it that the scopes themselves are just 11m aperture.

Didn't the summary say "11 cm" ? That'd be roughly 4 inches ... ( 1 m = 100 cm )

Sun storms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38593980)

they slightly dim the starlight from view

But how they know this dim is produced by a planet? You can look at our Sun and its light has different intensity depending on the cycle it's on. I mean, how do they really know it's an exo-planet and not burst of plasma that finished?

Planet or Sun Spot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38594652)

Is it true that they do not actually see planets that they measure a stars brightness and when it goes dim ever so slightly they claim it is a planet. Could it be that Sun spots cause the dim and not a orbiting planet. Some of the claims of Jupiter size planets in orbits closer than mercury make me skeptical that they are actually planets and not sun spots or some other force other than planets. I do believe that some of them are planets but do not believe the science takes everything into account.

denemetestcoz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38595178)

denemetestcoz.com [denemetestcoz.com]

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