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Hubble Finds Sign That Habitable Planets Could Exist Beyond Solar System

timothy posted 1 year,18 days | from the depends-on-the-population dept.

Space 57

cold fjord writes with this excerpt from the BBC: "Astronomers have detected the tell-tale signs of a shattered asteroid being eaten by a dead star, or white dwarf. The Hubble telescope spotted the event some 150 light-years from Earth. The researchers tell Science Magazine that the chemical signatures in the star's atmosphere indicate the asteroid must contain a lot of water. This makes it the first time both water and a rocky surface — key components for habitable planets — have been found together beyond our Solar System. ... Of the 1,000 planets so far identified beyond our Solar System, none has been definitively associated with the presence of water." More at Smithsonian Magazine.

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Delta Force (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109593)

I love watching Chuck Norris beat the everloving shit out of an Arab animal. It's based on a true story where an elite team of Americans killed a shitload of Arab towelheads for hijacking a plane and kidnapping American citizens.

Just nuke the whole fucking middle east. It would wipe out 90% of the world's problems.

Re:Delta Force (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109649)

Or just nuke 90% of the world. It would wipe out 100% of the world's problems.

Re:Delta Force (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109665)

Shut the fuck up little boy. The world isn't like your pew pew comics, so keep your mouth shut until I say you can speak.

Re:Delta Force (-1, Offtopic)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,18 days | (#45109777)

You only need to nuke less than 27% of the world to wipe out 100% of the world problems.

Re:Delta Force (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109999)

You would know, right nip? After we nuked your home town and made you our bitch I mean. You gooks been docile since.

Yeah, shut the fuck up before I make you suck my cock, shrimpy

Re:Delta Force (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,17 days | (#45113619)

Excuse me? I'm from Central Europe. I'm not all that familiar with the semantics of English ethnic terminology but I'm pretty sure that none of "nip", "gook" or "shrimpy" applies to my Bavarian ancestors. (Ja, in Bavaria, wo die Bäume aus Holz sind!)

Re:Delta Force (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109653)

A single member of Delta Force could kill an entire team of any "special" forces group from any country. They are the best in the world.

Re:Delta Force (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109695)

A single member of Delta Force could kill an entire team of any "special" forces group from any country. They are the best in the world..

Re:Delta Force (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109743)

A single member of Delta Force could kill an entire team of any "special" forces group from any country. They are the best in the world...

Re:Delta Force (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109783)

A single member of Delta Force could kill an entire team of any "special" forces group from any country. They are the best in the world....

Re:Delta Force (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109785)

Fuck yeah [slashdot.org] KILL that ARAB ANIMAL.

More evidence of similarity (5, Interesting)

Covalent (1001277) | 1 year,18 days | (#45109659)

It seems that nearly every week there is an example of a new solar system with somewhat similar characteristics to our own. We've seen large planets, rocky planets, and now asteroids with high water content.

In 1995 my physics teacher told me we'd never have direct evidence of extrasolar worlds. Now I tell my physics students that I wouldn't be surprised if we found evidence of extrasolar life (probably in the form of a planet with a high concentration of oxygen in its atmosphere).

It's a great time to be alive and to be a scientist!

Re:More evidence of similarity (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,18 days | (#45109947)

is it a class M planet?

Re:More evidence of similarity (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110103)

Shut the fuck up, nerd.

Re:More evidence of similarity (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,18 days | (#45111361)

FWIW, those are currently called "Earth-like" planets, although the broader term "Goldilocks planet [wikipedia.org] " is often used to refer specifically to Earth-like planets within a habitable distance from their suns. There was an attempt at developing a class system for planets [wikipedia.org] , but it only included gas giants. It actually doesn't seem all that out of the question that someone might adopt a modified version of Star Trek's system [memory-alpha.org] , although letters are already used for star classification [wikipedia.org] .

Re:More evidence of similarity (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45112123)

If it is, it should have some roddenberries.

Re:More evidence of similarity (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110141)

To be fair, at lot of this evidence isn't direct. It's not like we traveled there, took samples and confirmed it.

We extrapolate this based on looking at the stars, they are just inferred and predictions. We don't know if they are correct until we actually get closer.

Re:More evidence of similarity (1)

green is the enemy (3021751) | 1 year,18 days | (#45110645)

Why all the excitement about finding water in another star system? Sure, it seems to be the first time it was actually detected, but only after the water fell onto a white dwarf. This detection method will not work for systems that might actually harbor life.. And it's only one data point, so doesn't generate any useful statistics on the water content of other star systems. As far as answering the question "is there water in other star systems?" I don't think anyone ever thought the answer might be "no."

Statistics have to be started from somewhere (1)

onyxruby (118189) | 1 year,18 days | (#45112265)

Because a set of statistics for rocky worlds outside of this solar system with water now has a 1 in the column where it used to have a zero. We now have a data point where we used to have nothing, and that is a beginning. It's really the entire point of the Kepler mission when you think about it, to gather data so that we can better generate state statistics. We need data and in any number of critical fields the slot has a 0 in it.

Science starts somewhere and this is an indicator that were not wasting our resources by looking for rocky planets with water. We now know that they have existed in at least one other place in the universe, even if it wasn't a fully formed planet. For a while when we first started finding planets all we found were gas giants that were far larger than Jupiter and there were calls to stop looking as the costs were considered a waste.

How do we know if something is common or not until we go looking and persist for a scientifically meaningful period of time? When I was in school the idea that we would ever actually take a physical picture of a planet around another solar system was science fiction. Decades later and we have pictures of many planets around other solar systems and even planets that do not orbit a solar system at all.

Re:Statistics have to be started from somewhere (2)

InfiniteLoopCounter (1355173) | 1 year,18 days | (#45112633)

When I was in school the idea that we would ever actually take a physical picture of a planet around another solar system was science fiction. Decades later and we have pictures of many planets around other solar systems and even planets that do not orbit a solar system at all.

I like the sentiment of your post, but we currently don't even have a 1 pixel picture of a planet around another star than our sun. The current methods, at least until we get James-Webb [wikipedia.org] and better telescopes out there, are using the wobble effect from the gravitational effect of the planet on the star, spectral analysis, and such indirect methods of observation.

Still it is pretty cool to look at the current list of habitable exoplanets [wikipedia.org] and think of the types of worlds there are out there. The discovery in the article proves beyond doubt that water can exist like on earth on the surface of a large rocky body.

Re:Statistics have to be started from somewhere (2)

onyxruby (118189) | 1 year,17 days | (#45113681)

You are quite right about the wobble effect used to help find candidates. It's extremely difficult to get direct pictures, however we have done it. Since it sounds like you have some interest in the subject I'll provide some links for you to read on. Interestingly enough the planet first planet we directly pictured had been captured by Hubble and overlooked for years as we didn't have the technique for combing through the data at the time!

http://www.universetoday.com/26353/new-technique-allows-astronomers-to-discover-exoplanets-in-old-hubble-images/ [universetoday.com]

I like the list of habitable exoplanets, as this is where the future of humanity has to go someday.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/bad_astronomy/2012/11/exoplanet_pictures_astronomers_have_photos_of_alien_planets.html [slate.com]

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2452217/A-lonely-planet-Giant-gas-world-sun-orbit-floating-space.html [dailymail.co.uk]

http://www.google.com/imgres?biw=1920&bih=963&tbm=isch&tbnid=kjlHVn7dUiT4lM:&imgrefurl=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/3453478/First-direct-pictures-of-planets-outside-our-solar-system.html&docid=WY-uZHkJtvY5FM&imgurl=http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01113/HR_8799_1113907c.jpg&w=460&h=288&ei=qp5aUonvOYnM9QTa1IHICw&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:89,s:0,i:354&iact=rc&page=3&tbnh=178&tbnw=284&start=76&ndsp=38&tx=85&ty=84 [google.com]

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2008/nov/13/first-bona-fide-direct-images-of-exoplanets [physicsworld.com]

Re:Statistics have to be started from somewhere (1)

InfiniteLoopCounter (1355173) | 1 year,17 days | (#45116547)

Thanks for sharing the links. I'm very happy to be wrong on this, and it's interesting to see the progress made in the last couple of years on exoplanet discovery.

Re:More evidence of similarity (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#45113065)

wow. just, wow.

Re:More evidence of similarity (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,18 days | (#45110825)

In 1995 my physics teacher told me we'd never have direct evidence of extrasolar worlds.

This is a confirmation of the first of Clarke's Three Laws [wikipedia.org] . They are:
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Re:More evidence of similarity (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110965)

Another law, this by Agatha Heterodyne is:
"Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from technology"

Re:More evidence of similarity (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45111359)

cf gravity

Whats so special about water? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109669)

I don't get whats so special about water. Water has a pretty limited temperature range where its liquid, which is the form in which people consider it special. Water is a decent solvent, and thus rips apart lots of interesting structures (Thats a bad thing for life right?). Its shape is bad for building things. If its just that somehow hydrogen bonds + liquid = magic life juice, then there are lots of other choices (and that makes little sense).

Also, why are rocks key components? Even life here had little to do with rocks initially, and we have lots of rocks. We can even live without them.

I just don't buy the idea that life has to be nearly identical to what we have here. Perhaps this is a place we could infect with our life, but thats a whole different story. If you can survive in space via custom make ships, and spread that way, restricting yourself to a planet seems like a dumb idea. There is plenty of water and rocks in comets, and a little fusion reactor will provide all your energy needs. Living in a big gravity well seems counterproductive if you have the choice.

Re:Whats so special about water? (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,18 days | (#45109715)

Neither is required as they don't preclude other possibilities, of course. But our one data point shows life happens on a rocky world with lots of water, so we suppose it is one configuration likely to yield life elsewhere as well in lieu of knowledge about whether it is actually all that helpful or not, which requires further examples.

Re:Whats so special about water? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110367)

Water is a decent solvent, and thus rips apart lots of interesting structures (Thats a bad thing for life right?).

It's an amazing solvent, and a universal solvent. You in fact consist of mostly water, you bag of meat. Excuse me, I need to go swallow some more... water. (Okay, beer....)

Also, why are rocks key components? Even life here had little to do with rocks initially

In space things tend to be rocky or gaseous. If it's gaseous, it's hard to hang together.

Re:Whats so special about water? (1)

ntropia (939502) | 1 year,18 days | (#45111317)

Nothing absolutely special about the two, but definitely special in combination.
Let's say that water and rocks are very good ingredients on their own, assuming we're interested in variations of 'chemically based' life:

- water has interesting physical properties (you mentioned most of them), but one of them is its dielectric constant, very important for facilitating catalytic conditions (self-replicating molecules?)

- these physical properties allows it to solubilize minerals and a fair range of organic molecules at the same time, useful for catalyzing chemical reactions.

- it is somehow reactive either in reversible ways (hydrogen bonds) or by directly participating in chemical reactions (i.e. oxydation of energetic molecules = generating chemical energy)

- rocks could catalyze the spontaneous formation of chemical precursors or building blocks of life [creation.com] ...well, as we know it? yes, but it means it happened at least once.


Now, the important key is obviously the catalysis, i.e. making chemical reactions easier and quicker. Doing that in a low-energy context (i.e. the temperatures found on modern or archaic Earth), makes it much easier for randomly created molecules to survive long enough to have a chance to self replicate.

Re:Whats so special about water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#45113743)

What is so special about water? I believe that it is the only naturally occurring molecule whose solid state floats in its liquid state. That is what allowed life on this planet to survive under the ice during the Frozen Snowball period in this planets past.

so surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109673)

Who would have thought that one of the most common substances in the universe would be found outside solar system! The wonders of science.

Re:so surprising (2)

jc42 (318812) | 1 year,18 days | (#45110467)

Who would have thought that one of the most common substances in the universe would be found outside solar system! The wonders of science.

Yeah; if you do a bit of googling, you'll find that various "authorities" list water as the 3rd or 4th most common molecule in interstellar space. So the real mystery is why anyone would consider it news that water is found in the signature of some remote object. The default assumption should be that anything not hot enough to break up a water molecule into its constituent atoms (or H + HO) will contain lots of water molecules.

But I suppose that's too complex an idea for your typical media writer to get their mind around.

Re:so surprising (1)

cusco (717999) | 1 year,18 days | (#45111611)

Don't know about you, but I think it's incredibly cool that we can actually **DETECT** an asteroid being swallowed by an star. It's only a couple of decades ago that the idea of being able to even detect a planet around another star was considered absurd. And being able to tell what it's mad of? Abso-fracking-lutely amazing.

Re:so surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#45118071)

Yeah; if you do a bit of googling, you'll find that various "authorities" list water as the 3rd or 4th most common molecule in interstellar space. So the real mystery is why anyone would consider it news that water is found in the signature of some remote object. The default assumption should be that anything not hot enough to break up a water molecule into its constituent atoms (or H + HO) will contain lots of water molecules.

So which is it? 3rd or 4th? This is BFD as it is not whether it is the 285th or 286th most common molecule. Regardless of the predictions based on either surveys or what we know of the big bang (or what we call the big bang) and stellar evolution, the reality is that confirmed specifics are required. Whether you call that "news" or "obvious" or "common sense" matters not, your trollish existence is owed to people who answer these questions.

White Dawrf Tweets Back To Science Magazine (2, Funny)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | 1 year,18 days | (#45109683)

The White Dwarf in question had this to say on Science Magazine's Twitter Feed: "I made you a watery body with rocky surface, but then I ated it"

So nice Hubble grabbed this honor... (1)

sasparillascott (1267058) | 1 year,18 days | (#45109801)

So satisfying that Hubble was the telescope to grab this honor as it enters its twilight years.

Re:So nice Hubble grabbed this honor... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45109839)

Hell yeah. only AMERICAN technology could have done it. Everyone else is trying to copy us.

Re:So nice Hubble grabbed this honor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110051)

FYI Isaac Netwon was an englishman.

Re:So nice Hubble grabbed this honor... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110221)

FYI, nobody was talking about that worthless has been. Edwin Hubble and the Hubble Space Telescope are both 100% AMERICAN.

Water does not equal life (3, Insightful)

Maeric (636941) | 1 year,18 days | (#45109837)

Sounds familiar. While this is an intriguing find it does not mean that life outside our solar system is anymore possible than it was before.

This is similar to the buzz around finding possible water on Saturn's moon:
Saturn's Moon--Does Water Equal Life? [icr.org]

Re:Water does not equal life (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | 1 year,18 days | (#45110045)

Well, since we've run experiments where applying high voltage arcs (lightning simulations) to the basic chemicals like water, carbon, nitrogen, etc, produced amino acids... I think evidence of water and rocks is just about all I need to believe life is possible outside our solar system.

Re:Water does not equal life (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110393)

This is similar to the buzz around finding possible water on Saturn's moon:
  Saturn's Moon--Does Water Equal Life? [icr.org]

Holy crap, how did you get me to click on a link to a creationist website??

Re:Water does not equal life (1)

jc42 (318812) | 1 year,18 days | (#45110581)

Holy crap, how did you get me to click on a link to a creationist website??

Well, I'd think that the title, " Saturn's Moon--Does Water Equal Life?" should have been a tipoff. Few actual scientists would use the word "equal" there. Rather, they'd use a word like "implies" or "suggests". Reading the scientific results as saying that life exists iff there is water is a major failure in logic that you expect from creationists and media folks, and of course the data doesn't say that at all.

This sort of misreading is often characterized by the term "straw man" [wikipedia.org] . It may mean that the writer really is so ignorant that they misread the scientific findings as saying that the two things are equivalent. But all too often, it means that the writer can't find a way to credibly attack the scientific results, so they intentionally misread the results as implying an equivalence that doesn't exist and wasn't implied, and they attack that bogus interpretation.

It's an old rhetorical trick, and you seem to have fallen for it. ;-)

(And we might note that scientific reports on the properties of remote planets rarely use the term "life". This is introduced by the reporters writing about the results, and such comments are the writers' own interpretation of the results. Scientists are probably as interested in remote life as anyone else, but they tend to be aware that the current data says little about that topic.)

Tang (1)

Randwulf (997659) | 1 year,17 days | (#45116227)

It means that when they get there, astronauts will be able to make Tang.

tenses, motherfucker (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | 1 year,18 days | (#45109889)

chemical signatures in the star's atmosphere indicate the asteroid must contain a lot of water.

Or rather, it used to before it totally & tidally got the shit kicked out of it.

Isn't it a bit of a jump from "asteroid with rocks and water in it" to "rocky planet with liquid water on it"?

Not that I don't think they're out there. The aliens have to come from som
W&6 ';@ ...' baling near line 23 ..

c a r r i e r . l o s t

Re:tenses, motherfucker (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110073)

> Or rather, it used to before it totally & tidally got the shit kicked out of it.

You seem to presume a particular meaning of "now" as reference point ? ;-)

Re:tenses, motherfucker (1)

mrbester (200927) | 1 year,18 days | (#45111069)

We should get ready for the meteor shower that heralds the arrival of Kal-El.

Re:tenses, motherfucker (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45112183)

c a r r i e r . l o s t

sigh [wikipedia.org] .

Re:tenses, motherfucker (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#45113087)

woosh

Why is this being funded? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110149)

We have a roaring debt, a tax/spend President that has to be checked every step by a freshman senator, and a government that can't keep itself up. Why is this stupid thing even still in orbit? The money for this is just going to mean more Chinese financed debt.

The Hubble should be a private venture, if it should exist at all. It provides zero economic value to anybody.

Sure (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | 1 year,18 days | (#45110583)

If by "habitable planets" you mean "one habitable asteroid" and by "could exist" you mean "could have existed"...

It's great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45110675)

That were finding all these possible habitable planets.
That way when the technology will permit it, we can just leave this shithole of a planet and go for a better world.

Re:It's great... (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | 1 year,18 days | (#45111481)

No no no, see, that's not how it works.

When a new habitable planet is discovered, world governments will lay claim to it in the name of the oligarchs, and "regular people" will not be allowed to benefit from its discovery. Only politically well-connected people will go, and only politically well-connected corporations will have any part of the development of the mission.

Any Africans involved in this discovery? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#45111029)

Thought not.

Do you know that major Silicon Valley software and hardware companies don't want the public to know how much 'diversity' (in other words, white genocide) they have in their companies? Could it be because blacks are less intelligent than whites (who'da thunk it?) and companies simply can't afford to babysit useless blacks, and thus their staff are almost all white/Asian/Indian?

Quick, burn him, he told the truth!

Could have saved billions of dollars.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#45114389)

Which is more scientifically accurate?
A) Man thinks there might be a new kind of widget outside the solar system - because he thought there might be a new kind of widget outside the solar system.
B) $20 Billion robot says that behind curtain #2 might be a new refrigerator on popular game show
C) $200 trillion space probe thinks there might be something never seen before in history - outside our galaxy.

Why 'C' of course! Neither is more proven, neither has supporting documentation, but $200 trillion is much more expensive than "Free", so let's report that one!

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