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Kepler-186f: Most 'Earth-Like' Alien World Discovered

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the fire-up-the-speculation-device dept.

Space 239

astroengine (1577233) writes "About 500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus lives a star, which, though smaller and redder than the sun, has a planet that may look awfully familiar. With a diameter just 10 percent bigger than Earth's, the newly found world is the first of its size found basking in the benign temperature region around a parent star where water, if it exists, could pool in liquid form (abstract). Scientists on the hunt for Earth's twin are focused on worlds that could support liquid surface water, which may be necessary to brew the chemistry of life. "Kepler-186f is significant because it is the first exoplanet that is the same temperature and the same size (well, ALMOST!) as the Earth," David Charbonneau, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Previously, the exoplanet most like Earth was Kepler-62f, but Kepler-186f is significantly smaller. Now we can point to a star and say, 'There lies an Earth-like planet.'""

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239 comments

Alright! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781401)

Now all we need to do is send a couple of Nexus-6 replicants to the Tannhäuser Gate.

Re:Alright! (2)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 3 months ago | (#46781849)

Wrong! Think of all the cheap labor we could exploit by conquering the natives!

Re:Alright! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781909)

Now we need to find the CO2 content to determine if they are having a run away Greenhouse Effect!

after all that is more important than ANYTHING else.

Better leave now (4, Funny)

pablo_max (626328) | about 3 months ago | (#46781425)

If I do, I could be there in what, 25k years..round about?

After all, Mericans are always saying to me "if ya don't like it, git'out".

Re:Better leave now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781527)

Even if you left now, you wouldn't be the first one there.

Re:Better leave now (5, Interesting)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#46781629)

I know there has to be a book about that, but it's slipped my mind.

The whole thing of "first wave" colonists who spend generations getting there, and when they do... they find that the third wave colonists have been there for a few generations already, and all the planets habitable by them and their archaic technology are already taken.

Re:Better leave now (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781805)

That is assuming that the second/third wave colonists are giant douches that don't stop to pick up the first wave on their way...

Re:Better leave now (4, Insightful)

Golddess (1361003) | about 3 months ago | (#46782211)

That is assuming that the second/third wave colonists are even capable of stopping along the way to pick up the first wave. And that they are capable of pinpointing the first wave's exact location.

Re:Better leave now (3)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 3 months ago | (#46781815)

It's been done several times in fact, though I don't know if it's ever really been a central plot line.

The Revelation Space series has shades of that, but it's mostly background information that doesn't come directly into play. The "Amerikano" generation ships that colonized nearby stars (often less than ideally inhabitable) which were massively outstripped once the "light huggers" which could make the trip in a few years subjective time.

The Sector General has something similar, though with FTL ships replacing the generation ships. I think they find one of the old ships drifting through space, the inhabitants all dead or nearly.

Re:Better leave now (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#46782205)

Yeah; the Sector General is one of the ones I was thinking of... there's another directly about colonizing; might have been one of those Sci-Fi/Fantasy blend ones with a sapient planet or somesuch. But nobody ever really seems to tackle the issue head-on; just as a plot thickener.

Re:Better leave now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781853)

I think there's some references to that happening in David Weber's Honor Harrington series. It's not a plot driver or anything though.

Re:Better leave now (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#46782025)

That topic was in one of the episodes of Il était une fois l'espace [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Better leave now (5, Informative)

barlevg (2111272) | about 3 months ago | (#46782073)

There was the second season Babylon 5 episode, "The Long Dark" [wikia.com] in which a Sleeper ship carrying some early human colonists drifts into B5 space. Frankly, I think if your species develops FTL capabilities, the first order of business should really be to "warp" to all those generational/sleeper ships and pick 'em up.

Re:Better leave now (1)

CreatureComfort (741652) | about 3 months ago | (#46782251)

That, I think would depend entirely on the nature of the FTL physics you discover.

If you take FTL as plausible to begin with, then restrictions on the presence, or absence, of significant mass at one or both ends of the shift to/from FTL is entirely plausible. So you may not be able to reach the folks taking the slow route, until they are nearly there anyway.

Re:Better leave now (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 3 months ago | (#46782475)

Not only that but, it might not be safe to try and rendez-vous: http://io9.com/5889628/warp-dr... [io9.com]

"Any people at the destination," the team's paper concludes, "would be gamma ray and high energy particle blasted into oblivion due to the extreme blueshifts for [forward] region particles."

sure, maybe we can use this new-fangled drive to meet up with them, but, when we do, we will release a gamma ray burst that will sterilize their entire ship.

Now maybe it might be possible to aim to "miss" them by enough that little gets to them and then the last gap can be closed as subluminal speeds, but.... that ah, sure would be one hell of an entrance.

Re:Better leave now (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | about 3 months ago | (#46782265)

They wont. FTL == fiction.

Love, Einstein

Re:Better leave now (2)

barlevg (2111272) | about 3 months ago | (#46782313)

Einstein also thought Quantum Mechanics was a pile of shit. See: Clarke's First Law. [wikipedia.org] Coined, almost certainly, with him (or Bohr) in mind.

Re:Better leave now (4, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#46782389)

Not at all. Einstein says nothing about FTL, accept that it's impossible to accelerate across the lightspeed barrier in normal space. There are however numerous ways in which we could conceivably "cheat" even without postulating any fundamentally new physics - from wormholes to Alcubierre warp drives. Of course if Einstein's theories are correct then any such cheating mechanism would inherently double as a time machine with rather serious implications to our concept of causality, but by this point we should all have accepted than "intuitive understanding by humans" is *not* a consideration for the laws of physics.

Re:Better leave now (2)

jafiwam (310805) | about 3 months ago | (#46782355)

I know there has to be a book about that, but it's slipped my mind.

The whole thing of "first wave" colonists who spend generations getting there, and when they do... they find that the third wave colonists have been there for a few generations already, and all the planets habitable by them and their archaic technology are already taken.

"Songs of Distant Earth" Arthor C Clarke has a set of stories like that.

Re:Better leave now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782077)

At present technology, it would take 25k years to get to the NEAREST star (4.5ly away) and this is 100 times further....

Re:Better leave now (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about 3 months ago | (#46782215)

Even for going small distances like to Mars space radiation is a big problem. The fastest probes that we send out (that don't have to carry a complete ecosystem for us to live) could need more than 25k years just to get to the closest star system, at more than 100 times less distance than that planet. Probably no human will ever reach another solar system, so visiting there is badly out of the question.

Whats left? Contacting with a possible civilization there? Our planet has been with this size and in this orbit for more than 4000 millon years, and had a capable to send signals to other systems (maybe in very short range) for just 0,000000025% of that time, and who knows for how much time we will be around or trying to communicate. Was a civilization willing to communicate be around there 500 years in the past sending signals to us so we could get now a hint that someone is there?

Re:Better leave now (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 months ago | (#46782529)

Probably no human will ever reach another solar system

I think that depends on whether or not you think that creatures who have human beings as evolutionary ancestors would count as human.

Re:Better leave now (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#46782589)

Actually, at 1g acceleration it would take about 11 years to reach the mid-point and another 11 to decelerate back to a resting frame rate. So 22 years to the traveler which is certainly doable. Of course to us on earth this would be over 500 years into the future due to time dilation. Also, I'm assuming we'd solve the problem of finding the enormous amounts of energy required for 22years of uninterrupted thrust, the spacecraft could operate flawlessly for that amount of time, and that the planet isn't moving at some ungodly speed in relation to us. I assumed it and earth are in the same reference frame which is clearly not the case.

But is it a class M planet? (2)

GESWho (1618355) | about 3 months ago | (#46781445)

Well?

Re:But is it a class M planet? (2)

RichMan (8097) | about 3 months ago | (#46781473)

No report of a Macdonalds franchise yet.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (2, Interesting)

Teresita (982888) | about 3 months ago | (#46781555)

A world in the "habitable zone" of a class M dwarf star is only a few million miles away, orbiting in a matter of a few days. This means the planet will have a tidal lock, much like the Moon does with respect to the Earth. And that means the night will never end on one side of the world. And that, in turn, will make the dark side so cold the air will precipitate out as snow. Then the atmosphere will equalize, and snow again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Ribbon worlds are airless worlds. Forget about Earth 2.0.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (2)

arielCo (995647) | about 3 months ago | (#46781593)

It appears you missed a (silly) reference there: http://en.memory-alpha.org/wik... [memory-alpha.org]

Re:But is it a class M planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781615)

130 days according the article...

Re:But is it a class M planet? (4, Interesting)

amck (34780) | about 3 months ago | (#46781665)

No.

There have been several studies of tidally-locked planets around M-dwarfs which refute this.
Simulations of the Atmospheres of Synchronously Rotating Terrestrial Planets Orbiting M Dwarfs: Conditions for Atmospheric Collapse and the Implications for Habitability, M. M. Joshi, R. M. Haberle, and R. T. Reynolds , Icarus (1997)
A Reappraisal of The Habitability of Planets around M Dwarf Stars, Tarter et al. (2007), Astrobiology,

Basically atmosphere and ocean circulation transfer the heat, and you get a relatively habitable earthlike environment.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782437)

And that, in turn, will make the dark side so cold the air will precipitate out as snow. Then the atmosphere will equalize, and snow again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I'm sorry, but I don't really understand how that implies airlessness. Kinda sounds like it's just experiencing seasons much like Earth does.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (1)

bferrell (253291) | about 3 months ago | (#46781651)

but there IS a Starbucks

Re:But is it a class M planet? (2)

mk1004 (2488060) | about 3 months ago | (#46781481)

It's an alien planet! Is there air! You don't know!

Re:But is it a class M planet? (1)

mk1004 (2488060) | about 3 months ago | (#46781501)

Is there air?

Another time I wish /. allowed editing posts.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781901)

you know it's possible to gather information on the atmosphere of a planet without actually going there right?

Re:But is it a class M planet? (3, Funny)

Serenissima (1210562) | about 3 months ago | (#46781557)

*sniff* Smells ok to me.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#46781999)

I'm going to have the put on my tombstone.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782037)

Here lies the.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (2)

mrego (912393) | about 3 months ago | (#46781841)

"A planet circling that far left star..." City on the Edge of Forever

Re:But is it a class M planet? (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 3 months ago | (#46782157)

Who cares, its finally an interesting enough target for us to actually think about building an interstellar probe. The sooner we launch one, the sooner our descendants get to hear back from it.

Re:But is it a class M planet? (1)

davewoods (2450314) | about 3 months ago | (#46782469)

Who cares, its finally an interesting enough target for us to actually think about building an interstellar probe. The sooner we launch one, the sooner our descendants build a better, faster probe that will outrun the first.

FTFY

Life doesn't exist within Slashdot Beta (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781459)

Thank God that Phil Plait has finally stopped pimping out his blog here too. He was becoming a major pain.

Shh (4, Funny)

gatkinso (15975) | about 3 months ago | (#46781469)

If we are quiet, maybe we'll get lucky and they won't notice us....

Re:Shh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781643)

Maybe being up all night isn't the way to get lucky then...

Re:Shh (3, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#46781675)

500 ly away...

Sounds like we have 350-400 years before they start hearing our radio noise. After that, we might need to worry....

Re:Shh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781875)

qwzzttu> Silly ape still thinks in terms of relativity!
88XYY.3> How quaint. Fire up the planet crackers. They'll never even see this coming...

Re:Shh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781921)

Our time is shorter if they perceive a suspicious change in our atmosphere...

Re:Shh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782569)

Oops!!! Sorry. That was me.

Taco Bell for lunch.

They already know about Earth (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781945)

If they are advanced enough to travel here then they've had their own version of the Kepler telescope for 500 years and have known at the minimum that Earth has liquid water, oxygen, and chlorophyll (I think that can be picked up used spectroscopy). Basically anyone advanced civilization nearby probably has known about Earth as a life-bearning world long before humans came along.

Just a cool thought to counter the idea that we're hidden until someone detects radio.

Re:They already know about Earth (2)

gatkinso (15975) | about 3 months ago | (#46782263)

Well, I know the pond is there... but are there fish in it? I don't know until I see one jump.

They already know about Earth (1)

vriemeister (711710) | about 3 months ago | (#46781971)

If they are advanced enough to travel here then they've had their own version of the Kepler telescope for 500 years and have known at the minimum that Earth has liquid water, oxygen, and chlorophyll (I think that can be picked up used spectroscopy). Basically anyone advanced civilization nearby probably has known about Earth as a life-bearning world long before humans came along.

Just a cool thought to counter the idea that we're hidden until someone detects radio.

Re:Shh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782467)

Let's hope they do. If they can get here it means it's possible. if it's possible, I'd rather live under their tyrannical and technologically superior rule than the tyrannical and technologically inferior rule here.

Humans have proven one thing - they're completely incapable of managing anything important.

Considering Republics do not believe... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781631)

in other planets, why is this posted here? It would seem like the new conservative group that rules here would have disallowed it.

Re:Considering Republics do not believe... (1)

Iniamyen (2440798) | about 3 months ago | (#46782581)

Republics are not people.

People getting wierd about liquid water (0)

micahraleigh (2600457) | about 3 months ago | (#46781715)

The scientists act like any place with liquid water will magically be a great place to live.

So why not have a wonderful life on this planet with water and not ship our tax dollars into outer space?

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (4, Insightful)

wiggles (30088) | about 3 months ago | (#46781773)

Because the future of humanity depends on getting off of this rock eventually.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#46781871)

Because the future of humanity depends on getting off of this rock eventually.

Using a phrase like "the future of humanity" suggests that humanity as it currently exists has a future. As technology progresses and the merging of man and machine becomes a possibility, who knows that future inhabitants of this planet will want or need. In his novel Marooned in Realtime [amazon.com] , which deals with a technological singularity, Vernor Vinge speculated that an advanced race might decide to just burrow deep underground and live in a virtual reality there instead of expanding out into the cosmos. Sure, you could argue that billions of years from now civilization would be threatened by the sun expanding into a red giant, but that's hardly a case for the need for human beings to get off Earth now or anytime soon.

Marooned in Realtime (1)

vriemeister (711710) | about 3 months ago | (#46782001)

Did they ever imply the singularity caused us to burrow underground in that book? I thought it was just hinted that humanity moved to some higher state of being.

Re:Marooned in Realtime (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#46782049)

While the disappearance of humanity remained a mystery for the whole novel, Vinge ascribed this fate to another, alien species.

Re:Marooned in Realtime (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about 3 months ago | (#46782101)

No he didn't - the nature of the Singularity was never really described. The nuking found on the planet was done by a high tech human Juan something or another so as to fool the others into thinking that aliens were to blame.

Re:Marooned in Realtime (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 3 months ago | (#46782217)

The human race was not the only race in that book. The spacefarer woman encountered other planets whose civilizations had disappeared (eventually meeting the last centaur). It was with that subplot that the idea of a race holding its ground instead of expanding outward was explored.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (0)

gatkinso (15975) | about 3 months ago | (#46781899)

Fool. The future of humanity depends on figuring out how to properly steward the resources we have.

Anything less, and we are simply a cosmic horde of locusts, nothing more.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782087)

I used to think that way too, until I grew up and realized that not everything bad that happens to Earth is caused by humans, and that even if we were all holier-than-thou angels, the Earth would end one day without our help.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about 3 months ago | (#46782235)

Of course it will end. The sun will consume it eventually. This is on a time scale that is of no consequence to us.

Could a big rock come along and smack us? Yup. But we don't have to leave here to be able to stop it.

Could we one day leave and have every single colony wipe itself out? Damn straight. Maybe something/someone will come along and wipe out the colonies. Who knows. Maybe a plague could travel between them on ship and take everyone out.

That said, leaving Earth != insured survival.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 3 months ago | (#46782281)

You are not allowed to attack shallow thinkers. They have feelings after all.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 3 months ago | (#46782269)

Even if we are completely sustainable, the sun won't last forever, and before that point, it would engulf us.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782591)

I.... don't have a problem with this.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782091)

Because the future of humanity depends on getting off of this rock eventually.

If you think that is what it takes for us to survive, then your mentality will be what creates our demise, not a lack of (mismanaged) resources.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#46782095)

First off:
We don't actually ship money into space.
Secondly:
We pay people, we have things manufactured, we do RnD. SO the money doesn' t disappear.
Thirdly
What we develop for space exploration helps us on earth as well.
Fourthly:
This planet will meet its doom. Either via global warming, a giant rock, or a massive solar event. So we should make a way to get some people off the planet.
Finally:
We know life an occur with liquid water, that's why it's a goal and why people get excited. No one thinks it's magically a great place to live, but it does improve the odds.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 3 months ago | (#46782191)

The citizens of the USA spend more every year on new cell phones than they do on the entire budget of NASA. Pick something else to bitch about.

Re:People getting wierd about liquid water (0)

micahraleigh (2600457) | about 3 months ago | (#46782629)

The problem is you're looking at speculative world historical significance instead of value for actual, existing things like people.

It's pretty clear to me what value my cell phone has in my life.

I'm not sure how NASA has done much for me besides reaching out to muslim nations. To be totally honest I have doubts it is doing much for the Muslims either.

The modern organization with the name of NASA knows less about how to get into space than Von Braun and Goddard.

Nemesis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781721)

Maybe this could be it!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_%28Asimov%29

Great, now all we need to do... (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 3 months ago | (#46781763)

Is figure out a way to get there within a human lifespan, with a couple caveats:

1. females need to get there in an early enough age to reproduce and start a colony.

2. figure out a way to get there before we destroy our own planet.

Re:Great, now all we need to do... (2)

DutchUncle (826473) | about 3 months ago | (#46781863)

No, it would be OK to send a generation ship, where people live their lifespans on board raising their children. Assuming we could build something that lasts long enough without a BSOD.

Re:Great, now all we need to do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782209)

If we could build generation ships there won't be much point of sending them to planets (a generation ship is just a space habitat that wandered away from all the resources for some reason)

Re:Great, now all we need to do... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782127)

1. females need to get there in an early enough age to reproduce and start a colony.

Females here on Earth aren't interested in reproducing at an early enough age to produce live offspring. Their careers are more important than the future survival of humanity.

Re:Great, now all we need to do... (2, Interesting)

barlevg (2111272) | about 3 months ago | (#46782147)

I worked out this whole interstellar travel problem years ago. Also solves the problem of the negative effects of zero gee in space.

All you need is to have your ship accelerate at a constant rate of one gee, do that for half the trip, then turn the ship around and decelerate at the same speed until you get to your final destination.

The acceleration solves all your artificial gravity woes, and relativity solves all your lifespan worries--by my calculations, a trip to anywhere in the universe using this method would only take about two years for the passenger.

Of course, you need a way to fuel a ship that's accelerating/decelerating at one gee for two years, but that's just an engineering problem.

Re:Great, now all we need to do... (4, Informative)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 3 months ago | (#46782571)

An engineering problem in the sense that there is not enough matter in the universe to accelerate a spacecraft at 1 g for 2 years using any currently plausible propulsion method.

Re:Great, now all we need to do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782623)

Of course, you need a way to fuel a ship that's accelerating/decelerating at one gee for two years, but that's just an engineering problem.

Assuming you have a perfect method of converting antimatter+matter energy into acceleration, you would only need about 25% of your ship's mass to be antimatter to sustain 1 g acceleration over ~4 light years to the nearest star. YMMV if you have a less efficient drive or need to go further.

That's nice.... (1)

docwatson223 (986360) | about 3 months ago | (#46781801)

...but until someone fesses up to owning an actual, *working* interstellar drive this is kind of useless.

Re:That's nice.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782009)

Congratulations, you just volunteered to build an interstellar drive. Now get to work.

Re:That's nice.... (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 3 months ago | (#46782213)

I say we build a probe with our best propulsion option, and huck it that way. Sure, it'll be a couple dozen generations before it gets there, but its something for the grandkids to enjoy.

Clarke... (1)

DriveDog (822962) | about 3 months ago | (#46781847)

had the Monolith reporting to someone/something about 450 ly distant. It had reported how bad humans behaved, and was therefore ordered to destroy them. The messages took a combined 900+ years, so it didn't receive orders until 3001. What a coincidence. Or maybe I remember all that wrong.

Re:Clarke... (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about 3 months ago | (#46782183)

That's what I remember, too. Although that only applies to the "chronology" of 3001. Clarke has explicitly stated that 2001, 2010, 2061 and 3001 all exist in separate but similar universes (read: he was too lazy to worry about continuity issues across novels).

250,000x (1)

L053R (555186) | about 3 months ago | (#46781885)

Voyager 1 is 127 AU away, 500LY is about 31 Million AU.... so we only need to go 250,000 times further than we ever have! That seems doable.

Re:250,000x (1)

CMYKjunkie (1594319) | about 3 months ago | (#46781941)

Voyager 1 is 127 AU away, 500LY is about 31 Million AU.... so we only need to go 250,000 times further than we ever have! That seems doable.

Better get a move on then; I'll hold your beer until you get back.

Already here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46781913)

If you happened to notice any UFOs zipping around it may be because they noticed earth 500 years ago or more.

Heh (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 3 months ago | (#46781917)

You know what makes a planet Earth-like? Having life on it. Not theoretically maybe being able to support life, but actually doing so.

Re:Heh (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 3 months ago | (#46782061)

Earth-like IMO means being in the habitable zone w/ liquid water, about Earth-sized, rock world, preferably with molten core and magnetic field. Life is optional.

Europa and Encelaedas [sic] might by "earthlike" by your definition.

Re:Heh (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782179)

Earth-like depends on context. For me... if it has free wifi, it qualifies.

Point and look (1)

geekmux (1040042) | about 3 months ago | (#46782023)

"Now we can point to a star and say, 'There lies an Earth-like planet."

No, now we can point to yet another object in the sky and say "there lies another planet we haven't even remotely figured out how to get to yet."

I just love how we wax poetic about earth-like planets as if we can get there. Or even have a hint as to how to get there beyond theories Einstein wrote 100 years ago.

Seriously. We can't even figure out how to travel ONE light year, and we're getting all excited about one that's "only" 500 light years away.

Re:Point and look (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782115)

Luddite. Computers got better, therefore anything is possible. Tech predictions are laughable when it's about wrist-mounted floppy disks, but space predictions must never be mocked. They are holy.

And what about 3D printers, tough guy? Did you know we can make toilet paper holders at home now? This obviously means we're getting off this rock and colonizing the universe!

Only 500 light years! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782069)

Hard drives got better therefore anything is possible. I can't wait for the FTL ships in orbit! I also can't wait to use the space elevator to get there! And stay at the space hotel for a day and look at the orbiting solar panel arrays!

Can't wait to colonize that planet! Who's packing the 3D printer?

It's a great achievement... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782093)

Love it, but we REALLY need to concentrate on the closest stars (less than 50 light-years away) that would be targets for our first probes out of the solar system.

Sun is different? It would still look like home (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782131)

If the sun was different, but it had an atmosphere like our planet, the situation on the ground would apparently look remarkably like home. At least once you factor in the white point adaptation in our visual system. The first paper on that page is sort of tongue-in-cheek, but presumably fairly accurate prediction of what being on an earth-like exoplanet under a different sun would look like at ground level:

http://cgg.mff.cuni.cz/project... [mff.cuni.cz]

Taking all bets now! (2)

kwiecmmm (1527631) | about 3 months ago | (#46782133)

I believe this planet will be like Venus, a rocky surface, but a CO2 atmosphere that makes it at least 300 degrees Celsius on the surface.

Air pressure? (4, Interesting)

scorp1us (235526) | about 3 months ago | (#46782181)

How much of this "habitable zone" factors in water's ability to be liquid to to pressure? Too thin it vaporizes (Mars). Too much, it vaporizes (Venus). Merely being the right temperature isn't enough.

Also, having a magnetic pole strong enough to shield it from the solar wind, so what does wind up in the atmosphere doesn't wind up in space.

Re:Air pressure? (3, Interesting)

kwiecmmm (1527631) | about 3 months ago | (#46782273)

There is also the age of the solar system to worry about. If it is in its early years there could be constant planetary bombardment going on.

If it is in its later life the planet's core could have shut down, leaving no shield.

Re:Air pressure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46782603)

That's why size is important. If the star is of the same type/material/heat, then it likely means the planet is of the same set of meterials (accounting for density), and so size gives you a good idea of mass. Mass gives you gravity, and therefore pressure. Most of planetary science is actually several more steps removed (like using spectroscopy and standard candles to estimate distance of EVERYTHING else). Keep in mind, however, so is most nano science. We shoot electrons and measure their reflections to calculate angles and make presumptions, it's tedious, but accurate.

Should we say hello? (1)

Animats (122034) | about 3 months ago | (#46782353)

We could send radio signals that far, with the big dish at Arecibo. If they have intelligence, and radio, we can communicate with a 1000-year round trip time. Maybe we should transmit some of the proposed canned messages to other civilizations every month or so.

If there is other intelligent life out there, it looks like they're a very long way away. Too far to talk to round trip, even at light speed. None of the known extra-solar planets within a few light years look promising.

Re:Should we say hello? (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 months ago | (#46782567)

Actually, at near light speed, time slows down, so a person who embarks on a journey in a spaceship capable of moving near enough to the speed of light could conceivably reach a destination many hundreds or even thousands of light years away in their own lifetime.

Of course, everyone that they left behind and ever knew will be long gone.

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