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Three Tiny Exoplanets Suggest Solar System Not So Special

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the more-exoplanets-than-we-know-what-to-do-with dept.

NASA 83

ananyo writes "Adding to its already long roster of firsts, NASA's Kepler spacecraft has found the three smallest extrasolar planets ever detected — all of them smaller than Earth, and the most diminutive no larger than Mars. The newly discovered trio forms a miniature planetary system orbiting a cool, dim red dwarf star called KOI-961. Because they are so close to their star, the three exoplanets are too hot to support life. But unlike most previously known exoplanets, the vast majority of which are Jupiter-scale gas giants, all three are thought to be rocky worlds like Earth and the other worlds of the inner Solar System."

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83 comments

I'm off to there! (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676032)

...no time to post here...

Unlikely to support life (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676034)

... as we know it. Where there is lots of energy there could be something to make use of it.

Re:Unlikely to support life (5, Interesting)

simcop2387 (703011) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676282)

While that is true, it is nearly impossible for us to determine such things right now. That's why current searches are looking for things that appear to be earth like for the simple reason that we know what to look for. Until we can find other things that we KNOW are life we can hardly begin to speculate on if we are detecting things that might be life but not as we know it. As we get more comfortable in detecting these kinds of things we'll be much much better equipped to come to conclusions for things we haven't seen.

Re:Unlikely to support life (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676958)

I've read this nice book on how (1) *animal* life (or an equivalent with slightly different chemistry - but still complex and multicellular) might be rarer in the Universe than we previously thought - mainly due to temperature stability problems during the long evolution of said organisms (main sequence stars shining progressively (and significantly) brighter as they age and the ecosphere having somehow to cope with it, which in case of Earth means some kind of CO2 feedback mechanism that tends to stabilize the temperature in a fairly narrow band of temperatures and that might be quite rare in the universe - again, a speculation), whereas (2) an alien equivalent of extremophilic bacteria might actually be much more common than we thought and could make up the greatest potion of Universe's biomass (just as it is on Earth). The question here is whether there are other interesting self-replicating molecules than just DNA and RNA. If not, then I guess we have quite a good idea as to how alien life looks like. (But I love to be proven wrong every now and then...)

Re:Unlikely to support life (3, Insightful)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677228)

which in case of Earth means some kind of CO2 feedback mechanism that tends to stabilize the temperature in a fairly narrow band of temperatures and that might be quite rare in the universe - again, a speculation

The "quite rare" speculation is certainly based on definition. It would be correct to say "quite rare" if even a fraction of a percent of stars have an Earth-like planet. The "quite rare" may not be correct considering that such a small fraction could be billions of planets.

It is quite amusing that humans want to consider ourselves unique and somehow believe we will be the superior beings when life is discovered elsewhere. I certainly hope not, because it is quite depressing to consider we are the best of what the universe has to offer.

Re:Unlikely to support life (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677854)

The "quite rare" speculation is certainly based on definition.

The Earth's feature in question was working plate tectonics, with just about the right amount of water on the surface. I can't recall the workings of the feedback mechanism itself, only that it depends on CO2 being released from volcanoes at a rougly constant rate and then being reabsorbed in the crust (and later brought deeper near subduction zones) with the reabsorbtion rate being positively corellated with surface temperature, thus creating a negative feedback loop - or something like that. (Oh, and I've found the book [amazon.com].)

Re:Unlikely to support life (2)

Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677898)

OTOH, most of us have the capacity to recognize the flaws of our species, and we are willing to accept economic inefficiencies in exchange for meeting intangible social and cultural benefits. We really aren't that bad, for the most part.

Techies tend to have mild BPD, believing most highly in rationality, criticism and determinism, so we're all a bit brain damaged when it comes to sociology and anthropology. I bet a lot of /.ers would think the Vulcans are a better species than humans, for example. They'd probably keep thinking that right up until the Vulcans make the perfectly logical choice to exterminate 10% of their population to correct their 10% structural unemployment.

Re:Unlikely to support life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38678160)

So, basically, you don't know any techies, anyone suffering from BPD, or any Vulcans. Do you just string words together randomly?

Re:Unlikely to support life (5, Insightful)

Artraze (600366) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677110)

But at that level of pedantry, we might as well assume that life can exist within a star itself, and that planets aren't really important. Or for that matter, maybe these plants are actually large balls of cheese! Until we actually land on extrasolar planets, we can hardly begin to speculate on if what we are detecting are actually rock and gas.

Astronomy offers only very limited opportunities for observation and basically none for testing. We must supplement what data we can gather heavily using theories and understandings rigorously tested on Earth. While we can't rule out Star Trek style energy beings, for example, we can look at plasmas and their behavior and realize that forming synaptic pathways out is it would basically be impossible. We can draw up some pretty loose limits on life... If it's cold enough that helium is about the only liquid available or so hot that what hasn't melted are only impermeable rigid ceramics, the probability life exists is nil. If it's too hot for a man built machine to function, then it's probably too hot for life as well. It's just a matter of extending what we know about chemical processes, materials and mechanics... Too hot or too cold and making functional and reliable processes, let alone life, is too hard.

In this case, they are estimating a temperature of 400C. For comparison, silicone and fluoroelastomers top out at about 300C, while highly engineered fluorocarbon oils can only barely get to 400C . Simple hydrocarbons, among other things, can beat that but are highly reactive and can't survive in a reactive environment (particularly with oxygen). Nitrates decompose around that temperature too. So in what medium would life exist? A eutectic salt mixture? But those are so corrosive, what would then contain it? These are the questions the look at and can't answer when they say "life doesn't exist". (And all this doesn't even cover other issues, like the radiation hazards of being closer to the star.)

If we see a rocky planet at 200C, then we can really discuss how stuck we are on water based life being the only option and how open our minds should be. But this one? It's dead, Jim.

Re:Unlikely to support life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38677658)

Theses bacterias want to disagree with you : http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v303/n5916/abs/303423a0.html

Re:Unlikely to support life (1)

Artraze (600366) | more than 2 years ago | (#38678150)

Not particularly, as they're still about 100C short _and_ require water. Water is highly unlikely to exist on that planet because the surface temp is beyond the critical point of pure water (375C) and planets so close to the sun usually have their atmosphere quickly stripped, water included. Whether or not there could be subterranean high pressure water is impossible to say, but very unlikely (it would have to form and never escape to the surface). Extreme conditions on an otherwise livable planet are far different than similar conditions on an otherwise unlivable one.

Re:Unlikely to support life (1)

wzzzzrd (886091) | more than 2 years ago | (#38679080)

Live on earth started evolving 3.9 billion years ago. No oxygen, no oceans, just trap volcanos all over the place, everything floating on liquid rock and metal. And yet, somehow ...

I call that livable conditions on an otherwise unlivable planet. And these organisms didn't do or change very much for more than 3 billion years, while the planet was changing dramatically. They even survived the oxygen crisis and adapted to it. All long before multicellular organisms evolved. Most disturbing fact is that some of these organisms are still around after 4.4 billion years and dramatic environmental changes, mostly unchanged. Not to mention spores that can be revived after 250 million years and turn into bacteria.

This is the current state of microbiology on the matter of life and it's origin. Even statistically, it is inevitable that a rocky planet with a surface temperature of 400C contains regions with temperatures between 0 and 100 somewhere, if you think liquid water is necessary for the process.

Re:Unlikely to support life (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38680436)

there were oceans, less than half a billion years after the world was formed. The oldest fossils are 3.5 billion years old, and are of ocean bacteria. Life on land is very recent, only 475 million years ago or so.

Re:Unlikely to support life (1)

wzzzzrd (886091) | more than 2 years ago | (#38683752)

Life on land came after the Cambrium explosion, 650 million years ago. And while it is somewhat sure that at around 3.5Ga there were oceans, it is also certain that the oldest fossils found are not the first living organisms on earth. The origin of them, as the majority of current theories conclude, began at least around 4.1Ga, probably 4.4Ga. And in the Hadean there were definitely no oceans, a surface temperature of about 1600C. This is an area of very recent debate, and whatever future evidence may suggest, it is not only probable but proven that microorganisms need neither liquid water nor a temperature in the comfort zone, these organisms can be found today. My point is that the actual question is: Could live evolve under extreme circumstances or could it just exist? And I'm saying is that current evidence suggests that yes, indeed, it can evolve under extreme circumstances.

Also, all our fossils are of DNA type organisms, while it is clear that it's predecessor was a replicator based on some other mechanism which we know nothing about. As we do about 99% of all current microorganisms (only 1% can exist in a pure culture). And with stuff like horizontal gene transfer or occurrence of viral DNA in the human genome only recently discovered I think the matter is far from settled.

Re:Unlikely to support life (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676546)

Exactly what I came here to post (albeit at work, so it's anonymous). I hate it when they use the term "too X to support life", in this case too hot.

Too hot to support OUR life perhaps, but to say that it's outright incapable of supporting any life whatsoever just makes whoever said that look simple-minded and dead-set on their own theory.

Sorry, given how insanely, ridiculously massive the universe is, and how many places we've travelled in it, I think it might be be a tad premature to declare that our form of life is the only existing type possible in all solar systems the universe over.

Re:Unlikely to support life (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676626)

> Too hot to support OUR life perhaps, but to say that it's outright incapable of supporting any life whatsoever just makes whoever said that look simple-minded and dead-set on their own theory.

People like you who come along to post the same counterargument on every exoplanet article just look like you're engaging in wishful thinking and hopefulness; far more interested in getting people to believe your viewpoint than the party you respond to.

Re:Unlikely to support life (4, Interesting)

Chrisje (471362) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676794)

Why? TOAC had a point. A very valid point. What's funny about this is that on the same page I saw this article, I saw an article entitled "Should science rethink the definition of "Life"?". It even said "With the increase of extremophile discovery in recent years perhaps it's time to reassess what the definition of "life" should be."

And here you are arguing the poster just wants people to believe his or her viewpoint without ever countering the actual counterargument you complain about.

Ad hominem character assassination just isn't cool.

Re:Unlikely to support life (3, Insightful)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677390)

GP has a point. We have no tools to search for life (outside of the solar system), we can only search for certain materials (e.g. water, carbon) and certain temperature ranges.

Re:Unlikely to support life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38701916)

I can already imagine any critique of any paper published by them according to your pseudo-theological view.

"You claim it is possible for life to exist there, yet provide no examples of life that can live there. This is unscientific at best."

Re:Unlikely to support life (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677098)

That is not necessarily true. Too much energy and the molecules that need to exist, whether carbon based or some other base can't form. Take our own Sun. Plenty of energy there, but if you want self replicating molecules, they can't form long enough to replicate.

There is a reason we are all sitting on planet earth and not mercury.

Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38677320)

I for one welcome our new energy sucking overloards!

Re:Unlikely to support life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38684870)

I agree. In fact we already know that certain bacteria already thrive in the extremely hot water springs in some deep parts of our ocean. We are talking over 600 degrees centigrade heat where these bacteria thrive. So it's entirely possible there is life - even life as we know it some. Not sure what the temperature of these planets are but we thought initially that 600 degrees would be too hot. Just as how we thought the earth is flat, the earth is in the center of solar system, the solar system is in the center of our galaxy, etc.

A flicker of light. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676058)

"Because they are so close to their star, the three exoplanets are too hot to support life."
Aren't red stars cooler then our yellow sun... Thus the habitable zone will be much closer to the star then for our sun.

Re:A flicker of light. (5, Informative)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676110)

Yes, that star's habitable zone is probably closer than our Sun's, but the planets are still way to close to be considered in that star's habitable zone.

FTFA:

At the AAS meeting, the discovery team announced that all three planets orbiting KOI-961 whip around the star in less than two days. The outermost body is the tiniest, with a diameter half that of Earth, or about the same as Mars, and a temperature of about 400 degrees Celsius. The inner two planets are larger, with diameters about three-fourths that of Earth. But that is still smaller than Venus. Because the planets are all small and close to their star, much of the atmosphere they may once have had would have evaporated, leaving behind bare rock, Marcy says.

Re:A flicker of light. (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676124)

True, but you get too close to anything that big giving up even a fraction of our sun's heat and you're going to have a huge a/c bill. I don't know about these particular planets, but I believe we've found a lot of exoplanets orbiting much closer to their suns than Mercury does to ours.

Re:A flicker of light. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676308)

If they truly orbit very close to their star, they are likely to be tidally locked and thus perhaps there may be portions of the planets surface that is within the habitable range.

Re:A flicker of light. (1)

Elder Entropist (788485) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676646)

That small of a slice of habitable terrain wouldn't be enough to support a functional atmosphere/weather system, an ocean, a functional biosphere... Water would evaporate on the hot side or even on the habitable ring, then freeze into permanent glaciers on the cold side and never return. Heck, atmospheric gases might even freeze out on the cold side or boil off on the hot side. Might support an artificially created indoor environment, but probably not a natural one.

Editor's Tiny Penis Suggests Slashdot Circlejerk (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676120)

corksoaker writes "Adding to its already long roster of first posts, Anonymous Coward has found the three of the smallest penises ever detected — all of them smaller than CmdrTaco's, and the most diminutive no larger than Malda's. The newly discovered trio forms a miniature penile system offering a cool, dim dwarf cock called CORK-961. Because they are so close to their anuses, the three penises are too hot to support life. But unlike most previously known penises, the vast majority of which are Steve Jobs-scale gasbags, all three are thought to be rock hard."

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Galaxy arms and habitable planets (4, Interesting)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676294)

There is a correlation between galaxy arms and possible habitable planets. The idea is not only does the planet have to be the right size, correct distance from the star etc, but also that its location in the galaxy matters!

Apparently passing through arms of a spiral galaxy is not good for sustaining life. I guess the density of the stars and solar systems must account for that.

For a starter, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_hypothesis#The_galactic_habitable_zone [wikipedia.org]

Re:Galaxy arms and habitable planets (4, Insightful)

Elder Entropist (788485) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677614)

The Earth has passed through galactic arms around every 100 million years, as your link says. Life seems to have coped.

Re:Galaxy arms and habitable planets (5, Insightful)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677830)

Give or take a few mass extinctions.

Re:Galaxy arms and habitable planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38678398)

And one Thriller video.

Re:Galaxy arms and habitable planets (1)

CtownNighrider (1443513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38693338)

I thought the star density is the same in and out of arms but there is more reflective gas in the arms?

Can't wait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676300)

Once we reach low earth orbit in privately-funded tin cans using the same materials and energy sources as 50 years ago, the universe will be ours! I wonder what the real estate is like there, will I be able to get in early and set up a few rentals next to Elon Musk's mansion?
-Hey, if he can be delusional, so can I!

Habitable planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676602)

Why is slashdot unable to present this issue in a scientific fashion? Yes, its quite exciting to discover these things, but the location of our solar system and the position of the earth relative to the sun, the moon, and the size and composition of the earth add to the probability statistic regarding habitable planets.

Does this discovery increase the probability of a habitable planet in the galaxy or in the universe at large? By what amount? What does this change?

Re:Habitable planets (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677790)

Just because we have small rocky planets in the habitable zone of our star does not mean that we know that it is common.
Finding that the layout of our solar system is not "All that special" means that "Life as we know it" could be much more common as well.

Great.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676616)

A whole solar system dedicated to shitty goldfish tattoos. Woo.

Kepler, the spammer (2, Insightful)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676736)

So, Kepler is up, in orbit, doing it's thing. Scientists expect to learn a lot, from finally being able to see alien worlds that are a similar size to earth.

Those of us who are non-scientists know that this isn't really going to be that exciting, unless they find something that differs from are assumptions. We expect that there are many small planets out there, that have not been visible until Kepler. We know that we will never actually "see" these planets. Kepler is just able to watch for periodic changes in brightness of the star, which indicates planets crossing our view of the star. Based on the period, we can "guess" the diameter of orbit, and the size of the planet.

When we see a spectrum of light produced by a stellar body, we know something of its composition. But, we aren't seeing that with alien worlds. We just see the star that they orbit getting dimmer. So, we'll never know the real composition. Once again, we "guess" the composition based on the size of the orbit, and the mass of the planet, both of which we guessed, based on the periodic nature of the brightness.

In a matter of 3 weeks, slashdot has seen 4+ articles about planets "discovered" by Kepler. None of them have findings different from what we've expected, yet they've all received prime coverage by pop-science publications. This leads me to a new theorem:

Kepler (spacecraft) [wikipedia.org] is a spammer!

Wake me up when we get interesting news.

Re:Kepler, the spammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38677240)

"So, Kepler is up, in orbit, doing it's thing."

Which is adding apostrophes where they're not needed?

Re:Kepler, the spammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38677970)

Yeah, if I could edit, I'd remove some of the scare quotes. I did go a bit overboard. I also wish I could correct my horrible homonym mistake (are/our), but slashdot won't allow edits.

I'm posting anonymously, since we are now far off-topic.

Re:Kepler, the spammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38678626)

But you're fine with "doing it is thing"?

Re:Kepler, the spammer (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677980)

What do you mean we'll never see? with the pace at which we've been refining our far space detecting objects, I fully expect that we will be able to see an alien taking a dump galaxies away by the end of the century haha... I say don't underestimate the power of progress... but I have been wrong before

Re:Kepler, the spammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38679294)

You meant "our assumptions", not "are assumptions". Where is this error coming from, anyway? It's really irritating.

Re:Kepler, the spammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38679436)

When we see a spectrum of light produced by a stellar body, we know something of its composition. But, we aren't seeing that with alien worlds. We just see the star that they orbit getting dimmer.

Actually, for planets with atmospheres, it's possible to determine the absorption spectrum from this sort of measurement. Dunno if Kepler is equipped to do so, and you obviously need insane quantities of data (averaging spectra from many occultations), but it's possible.

Re:Kepler, the spammer (1)

doom (14564) | about 2 years ago | (#38729466)

Well, here we go with a standard slashdot response ("Ho hum, is this supposed to be news? I did this when I was in high school.").

Actually, when you've suddenly got a lot of data confirming a commonly held assumption, that actually is news. An article of faith has become scientific fact.

Wake me up when we get interesting news.

Nope. It isn't possible. You're going to go through life sleepwalking, copping a faux-jaded pose, deaf to all magic and poetry, oblivious to the music of reality.

Orbital Period and Detection (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676866)

Almost all of the exoplanets detected seem to be close to their star with short orbital periods. Obviously these two go together. I know enough about these projects to know that there are a variety of methods used to detect exoplanets, but not much more. Are all of these methods biased toward detecting rapidly moving planets more easily, or does it seem that there really are few planets at any greater distances from their primary? Intuitively, it seems that detecting something like Neptune would be harder than detecting what we have seen so far. Is there an expectation that more distantly orbiting planets will be found?

Re:Orbital Period and Detection (3, Informative)

thrich81 (1357561) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677408)

Kepler detects planets by seeing periodic small drops in the brightness of the host star as the planet passes in front of it. That is only going to work for planets with a pretty short orbital period (I don't know the limit) since they depend on multiple observations to get the orbital characteristics. Neptune with is 100+ year period would not be measurable and unlikely to be observed even once during the mission.

Re:Orbital Period and Detection (1)

delt0r (999393) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677482)

This uses the transit method where the planet passes between its star and earth, so the orbital plane needs to be edge on. You also need IIRC 3 transits to be a proper observation. Thus to detect earth you need to wait at least 3 years but no more than 4. Jupiter you need to wait up to 48 years! So yes its very biased. I believe this missions max life is 7 years. And yes the planets that are further out will take longer and be announced later.

Not so special (1)

mvar (1386987) | more than 2 years ago | (#38676940)

Considering that we live in a galaxy with ~400 billion stars and there billions of other similar galaxies out there, our solar system is not "so special" for sure!

Not the smallest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38676978)

These are not the smallest planets to date, only the smallest around a normal star. The pulsar PSR B1257+12 has several very low mass planets, including one at 0.02 earth masses and another object at 0.0004 earth masses:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PSR_B1257%2B12

The triumph of Copernicus (2)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677354)

First Man thought the earth was the center of the (universe) the solar system

Then he thought the sun was at the center of the (universe) the galaxy

Then he thought the galaxy was at the center of the universe

Then he thought planets were rare and that earth sized planets even rarer. Not so! (it looks like)

Not only is Man no longer at the center of the universe in any figurative sense, metaphorically he is even less so. Solid matter (let alone organic compounds) are a vanishingly small component of what makes up the universe with Dark energy, Dark matter and matter in superheated plasma, black holes or cold interstellar clouds making up the rest.

All that remains is to (hopefully) find that Life is not rare then Intelligent Life is not rare and that Technological civilizations are not rare.

But hey, even if so, at least we've got Paris Hilton I mean Kim Kardashian!

Intelligent Life, Paris Hilton, and Kim Kardashian (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38678360)

Intelligent Life, Paris Hilton, and Kim Kardashian. In the same message!

Ok, i get it. You also referred to "Man no longer at the center", "figurative sense", and "superheated"... Wait, no.

That beats me.

Re:The triumph of Copernicus (1)

bertok (226922) | more than 2 years ago | (#38680364)

By definition, you are the geometric centre of the observable universe, which is defined as a sphere centred around you. All other observers are living in the past, and have smaller observable universes that are just subsets of your personal universe. I can talk to you about "my" observable universe, but because of the delay introduced by the speed of light, you can only find out about my observations after some non-zero delay. In that time, your universe would have expanded to include the older, smaller universe that influenced my observations.*

A more interesting point is that since you are an extended object, the universe cannot be a perfect sphere, as there is no well defined mathematical point that can act as the centre. In some sense, the entire volume of your brain is the centre. I've always wondered if that has some sort of metaphysical implications.

*) This may not be 100% true because of the expansion of space-time itself, but I haven't had enough coffee to think it through thoroughly.

Isn't any discussion about exoplanets+life mute? (2)

no-body (127863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677364)

How many suns exist?
From: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEM75BS1VED_index_0.html [esa.int] :

"there are something like 10**11 to 10**12 stars in our galaxy"

From: http://www.universetoday.com/36610/how-many-galaxies-have-we-discovered/ [universetoday.com] :

"Astronomers think that there are hundreds of billions galaxies in the universe"

Ok, so estimate 500 billions - thats 500 000 000 = 5 x 10 ** 8

That would be 5 * 10 ** 19 = 50 000 000 000 000 000 000 possible stars/suns

That's a number beyond human comprehension and applying any statistical probability will return a true chance.

So - be assured that "we" are not alone and with current means can never visit other planets within one person's life-span.
What the heck! In the meantime, the basis for live as it was existing up to now on this planet the human race is going down the tube!

Re:Isn't any discussion about exoplanets+life mute (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 2 years ago | (#38677414)

It might be moot (though the interesting thing about exobiology is finding intelligent life forms, not merely life), but mute? It'd be kinda hard to have a discussion this way :)

re: 500 billions - thats 500 000 000 = 5 x 10 ** 8 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38677494)

No it bloody isn't!

Re: 500 billions - thats 500 000 000 = 5 x 10 ** 8 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38677886)

Well yeah seeBillion [wikipedia.org]. But its really confusing because because people cant decide the name of the number. I still say its 10^12. :P

Re:Isn't any discussion about exoplanets+life mute (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38678356)

Person's life-span? That's being kind. A Civilizations life-span? Even that is Generous.

More like species or organism life-span.

I know calculating going to the last closest exoplanet they announced at Voyager speeds (it being the only thing we have flung out of our solar system for comparison) would take approximately 14 Million years travel time. And that estimate is if you smash into the planet not bothering to try and decelerate! :)

Re:Isn't any discussion about exoplanets+life mute (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38680476)

that's an assertion without any proof, there are a few peculiar things about our Earth and the Sol system that might not have happened anywhere else. Really.

Re:Isn't any discussion about exoplanets+life mute (1)

no-body (127863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38680754)

Total baloney! You have no clue about probability and chance - just stay proud about your perceived uniqueness and be happy.

Re:Isn't any discussion about exoplanets+life mute (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 2 years ago | (#38682488)

The really big sticking point for me is the formation of fossil fuel deposits on Earth - so many things in both biochemical and geological evolution had to go just right that it might be exceedingly rare, and necessary for bootstrapping things like solar- and nuclear-derived energy.

So while lots of planets may harbor life, and some tiny percentage but substantial number may harbor bronze age-level civilizations, I think it's possible that we could be the only place in the Milky Way with a technological civilization. Sad, but how do you account for Fermi's Paradox?

Re:Isn't any discussion about exoplanets+life mute (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#38683596)

The really big sticking point for me is the formation of fossil fuel deposits on Earth - so many things in both biochemical and geological evolution had to go just right that it might be exceedingly rare, and necessary for bootstrapping things like solar- and nuclear-derived energy.

Well, we don't know the probability of such deposits forming given that life is present. We have absolutely no idea whether it is likely or not, as we only know of one place with life and only have had the ability to properly look elsewhere for a very short time. The jury isn't out; the jury's not yet been sworn in.

So while lots of planets may harbor life, and some tiny percentage but substantial number may harbor bronze age-level civilizations, I think it's possible that we could be the only place in the Milky Way with a technological civilization. Sad, but how do you account for Fermi's Paradox?

Too many possibilities to say. To be fair, our current technology would be hard-pressed to look for Earth from a distance equivalent to Proxima Centauri, so it's not surprising that we've not seen any other civilizations yet. What we do know is that we've not seen much in the way of coherent photon beams (lasers, etc.) directed towards us. But then why would anyone bother to do that? (Or maybe they've decided not to.)

The only things we do know for sure are that it is a very large galaxy, that our detection methods are not yet good enough to spot most potential life-harboring planets at all, that we don't think there is any reason in principle why life has to be carbon-and-water based, and that it was a long time on Earth from when life appeared to when civilization turned up. The Drake Equation has many terms where we simply do not know what the value is; we've lots of speculation, but damn little data as yet.

Re:Isn't any discussion about exoplanets+life mute (2)

no-body (127863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38687758)

Once I saw a demo by a forest person about some geological features. He had a 2 m stick and said this represents the age of the earth (making comments about subsections). Then he asked what the age of humanity would be on that scale and to give the answer, he put a sheet of paper on top of the stick. The thickness of this paper represents the time humans are on this planet.

To put this (and you) on a cosmic scale and time with galaxies, universes and super clusters of universes wanting to make any guesstimates you are attempting, I wish you good luck!

If amino acid building blocks are found on comets coming from outside our solar system, live in complex forms may be a common appearance on that vast scale - or not, who cares?

Humans have a temporary appearance on this planet, just see what they are making of it....
More advanced civilizations elsewhere may have concluded that tending their own planet and living happily there is the way to go - why bother about some stuff light years away when the environment you evolved in is just right, enjoyable and precious.

So... (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38684120)

I think we're getting to the point where "Kepler detects planet" is just not newsworthy anymore. Even if it's a small planet.
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