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First Other Solar System discovered

sengan posted about 15 years ago | from the Upsilon-Andromedae dept.

Science 188

The first solar system other than our own has been discovered only 44 light years away. Its planets are Jupiter-sized and its discovery suggests that solar systems such as our own may be commonplace in the Universe... potentially providing a fertile ground for extra-terrestial life. The large size of the system's planets also invalidates all current planet-formation theories.

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188 comments

Da' Planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931326)

I find it completely amazing that we can see these three planets (calculating size, year, distance from the center of their solar system), yet still don't have a complete grasp on the classification of Pluto!

I say the /. community should name them, seeing that the scientists will probably use some naming scheme such as S503-x-311, S503-x-312 and S503-x-313. What kind of names can anyone else out there think of?

I vote for Bill Gates I, Bill Gates II and Bill Gates III seeing that they are all full of hot gasses.

It is a first of a sort (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931327)

Sure, they have had articles about finding these Jupiter sized planets, but this is the first time several have been seen revolving around one sun.

I think it's the first time a solar system has been declared. If this is valid, a LOT more study will be put into checking it out, and we will know a lot more "after the dust settles"

Wonder what kinda OS they use.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931328)

Extrasolarix perhaps?

What are they really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931329)

if the lack of information in the article surprises you, you obviously aren't familiar with the bbc. really awful journalism..

Da' Planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931330)


I say the /. community should name them, seeing that the scientists will probably use some naming scheme such as S503-x-311, S503-x-312 and S503-x-313. What kind of names can anyone else out there think of?

I vote for Bill Gates I, Bill Gates II and Bill Gates III seeing that they are all full of hot gasses.


There's plenty of hot gas bags around to name these planets after. Innermost can McNelly. Second one is twice as big, call it Ellison. The third one is the biggest hot gas bag of all -- Gates of course.

Well We're getting there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931331)

It seems to me that the reason for that would be that Jupiter size planets in 3 day orbits are far and away the easiest to observe. As the sensitivity of our data increases and our observation times increases, I feel confident more solar systems similar to ours will appear.

Doug

OT: Naming Stars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931332)

This is talked about in the sci.astro FAQ. The bottom line is that stars are not for sale, at least, not in such a manner that your name will appear in any official catalog. You can certainly do whatever you want with your money, but don't expect to find your name by grepping through the Tycho catalog a year or two down the line.

Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931333)

Uhm...

Size seems to be correct in this case especially since we don't know what they're made of...

Supposedly they can determine the volume of the planet in question, but without knowledge of the materials how can you possible determine it's mass?

Please explain your statement a bit more...

It's not what it seems! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931334)

There's just a big mirror out there; we're just seeing the reflection of our own universe! The planets look to be the size of Jupiter only because the mirror is a bit concave.

Time zone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931335)


So if I call there at 3:00 in the afternoon, do you think they'll be awake?

I'm not a geek!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931336)


Don't laugh at me!

We are not alone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931337)

Well duh, it was only a matter of time before we finally found another solar system. I just hope we finally are able to make contact before I die. I mean, is there really anyone out there who really thinks there isn't life somewhere else out there in this vast universe of ours?

The world is full of firsts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931338)

If there is x infinite planets how can you prove that there are y finite habited planets? With this logic how can you ever say, "ok they're no more habited planets?" You can't! Obviously you're misinformed on the definition of infinity.

Not the first of any sort that I can see (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931339)

2) first extra solar multi planet system?


No. *Most* of the extra solar planetary systems have had multiple members. Even the first, the weird system arround a neutron star had multiple planets.


I'd very much like to see where you got this information, as I do not recall "most" of the extra-solar planetary systems having multiple planets.

Solar/solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931340)

I think a capital S should be used with Solar in the sense of our Solar system to denote that it is the system of Sol. Other solar systems should have a lowercase s.
Unfortunetely the example of this usage that comes to mind right now is Holocaust/holocaust. The Holocaust (capital H) is the slaughter of Jews and other minorities by Nazis in WWII while a holocaust (lowercase h) is any such slaughther.

I'll eat my shorts if these are rocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931341)

Once a planet hits the size of the smaller gas giants in our solar system it will start to accrete the gas surrounding it in a run-away process. The reason why Mars, Venus, Earth, etc are rocks are that they didn't get big enough.

Maybe if you got a lot of rocky planetesimals in a solar system and then the star blew the gas off early you might be able to form large rocky planets. However, I really doubt you'd get a large rocky planet this close to the star via this mechanism since most of the planetesimals in orbits that might hit the planet would be a lot more likely to just get sucked into the sun.

Anyway, while I'm not about to say that they can't be rocks and have to be gas giants, I would accept bets and give very long odds.

Planetary formation theories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931342)

I think that the theory to which they are referring to is the thought that large gas giants (like Jupiter) tend to form at large distances than solid, rocky planets (like Earth). Two of the discovered planets are closer to the sun than Earth is.

Also, large planets close together tend to disturb and destabilize each others orbit. Three-body systems are very unstable; four bodies even more so.

More info on 3-body problems: [caltech.edu]

So we've finally found Bill Gates' home planet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931343)

Or, maybe, Dennis Rodman's?

The Real Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931344)

Allright. This is _not_ the first multi planet system discovered outside of our solar system. There were 3 planets discovered around the millisecond plusar PSR 1257+12.

It also is not the first time a planet has been discovered around a sun like star (as some people are posting). There is a planet orbiting 51 Pegasai (a virtual solar twin).

How they know it's a gas giant is a whole 'nother story which involves the size of the planet (as determined from the doppler shifts of the star).

Also, for the record, no one has ever reliably actually _seen_ a planet. They only see the doppler shifts in the star.

Basic physics dictate mass, NOT composition (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931345)

Once both of those are known, a simple calculation of FORCE=MASS*ACCELERATION will yield the mass.

That's not quite right, as the acceration measured is tangental, while the force is linear. You can't simply plug in and get an answer.

The world is full of firsts... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931346)

Better. :)

"such as our own..."??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931347)

| Its planets are Jupiter-sized and its discovery suggests
| that solar systems such as our own may be commonplace in
| the Universe... potentially providing a fertile ground
| for extra-terrestial life.

there seems to be an implicit assumption in this statment in
that for there to be life on other planets, that it must be
like our planet, and that the life must be like us. but this
is a big assumption. you can't assume that life will have to
exist in a temperature range in which humans can survive, or
that they have to be carbon based, or even that they have to
have solid physical bodies like us. where there is water,
fish develop, where there is land and air, land creatures
develop. if there is a gaseous methane atmosphere, perhaps
it is not even concievable that it could support any sort
of human life, but it might very well support some sort of
Gaseous Beings that resemble clouds intsead of solid-mass
like creatures like we ourselves. are humans so limited that
they can't imagine a lifeform that is unlike themselves in
composition?

johnrpenner@earthlink.net

"such as our own..."??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931348)

All this is true. It is all _possible_. But there is the distinct possiblility that all intelligent life (i.e. life that we will be able to find unless we find some way to travel faster than the speed of light) will be carbon-based and should dwell in the "habitable zone" of a galaxy (between Earth and the area half way between Mars and Jupiter). There is quite a good book laying this out called "Searching the Cosmos. Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life"

"such as our own..."??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931349)

Its actually more *likely* that other intelligent lifeforms out there are *not* carbon based, or like ourselves.

Life on planets (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931376)

I think its sortof foolish for people to believe that our planet could be the only one suitable for life. Finding life elsewhere would be "neat" I guess, but it would be no real suprise to me. Finding life that we could communicate with (we can barely do that on earth today) would be extremely difficult. We are the first "intelligent" life on earth (that we know of). The closest 5 billion galaxies could have just plants and insect type creatures. Could even find creatures big as the earth itself (wouldn't that be scary). I think it would be easier to find ways to communicate with life on earth that trying to find life on other planets we can communicate with.

humans will kill the aliens (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931377)

in 1492 the europeans found what was to them
a 'new world', full of 'alien beings'.

then they went over and slaughtered them
all and used the land for european agriculture.

if you want to meet aliens, go knock on your
neighbors door who you havent talked to in 15 years
and say hello.

Gate's moon (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931378)

And orbiting the biggest hot gas bag, Gates, is a small, extremely dense moon named Ballmer. This moon has an extremely erratic orbital motion. It's spin axis constants flips from side to side depending on it's interactions with Gates, McNelly, and Ellison. Recent unexplained motions by the moon have led scientist to strongly believe that a fourth major planet (tentatively named Linus) must also exist.

What is interesting is that the moon is believed to have an atmosphere compose of hydrogen sulfide, an extemely foul smelling gas. However, despite the presence of an atmosphere, no signs of intelligent life has ever been detect on Balmer.

Finally, while the planet Gates exerts a high level of influence on the moon, the moon has no influence on the planet. How the moon got to it's present position totally mystifies scientists.

Buncha Stuff (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1931379)

Well, first of all Geoff Marcy has been finding planets around other stars for awhile. Another poster was correct in stating that Jupiter sized extrasolar planets are nothing new these days. And that is correct. What is new about these results is that Marcy is claiming to have found an entire *system* of 3 jupiter-sized planets around another star. This is, in fact news.

Another poster was skeptical of these findings saying that so many of them can be attributed to things like "camera jitter" and such. Well, as I just said this is not the first planet that Marcy has found around other stars. He's been doing these experiments and getting good results for several years now. His experiments have been repeated and so far nobody has found any problems with them. I've come to accept that at the worst some of Marcy's extrasolar planet claims may wind up being disputed, but some of them are almost certainly planets. We're past the "camera jitter" phase in trying to come up with problems in the observations that Marcy is making.

Now, as for "invalidating all current theories of planetary formation" -- this isn't necessarily true. If Marcy is right this probably will bury all the theories which were in existence prior to his finding extrasolar planets. However, we've known of the existence of extrasolar jupiter-sized planets tightly orbiting other stars for a few years now and the shake-up in the theoretical community has already occured. There are now models out there which can account for this kind of star formation. One model that I know of suggests that many jupiter-sized gas giants are formed in the early solar system. As the solar system evolved there is a transfer of angular momentum between the orbits of these stars and the gas and dust and crap still remaining in the protoplanetary ring. The result of this angular momentum transfer is that the gas giant closest to the star will spiral into that star, then the next gas giant in line spirals into the star, and so on, until the gas and crap in the solar system is blown out of the system by the star and this process stops. When the process stops the solar system is left "frozen" in whatever configuration it was in. If a gas giant had nearly wound up plunging into the sun, then you'd see a gas giant in a very tight orbit. If, on the other hand you'd just lost a gas giant into the sun then the next one in line will have only started to spiral in and you'll see something similar to what our solar system looks like. It also makes the current results of this system of 3 gas giants, with one of them tightly orbiting, not too surprising and it might even be commonplace.

Unfortunately, I don't have a reference, but I saw a seminar on this theory and found it intriguing, and it would explain the existence of solar systems like this one and like ours. I don't think that this theory is necessarily correct, but just to point out that the damage to theories of planetary formation have already been done and that people are working on other theories which can explain what Marcy has been observing.

http://www.extrasolar.com/planetsearch.html seems to be a pretty good page of links. The first link on this page will take you to Marcy's extrasolar planet page at SFSU which is pretty much the authoritative source.

Life on planets (1)

Shiska (131) | about 15 years ago | (#1931380)

It's COMPLETELY foolish! Have we found the "edge" of the universe yet? ... And what is the "edge" of the universe? At what point does the universe end? I don't understand how people can think in such 3 dimensional terms.
----------------- ------------ ---- --- - - - -

This is not a "first" ... (1)

Herschel Cohen (568) | about 15 years ago | (#1931382)

I know I have read about the discovery of Jupiter size planets as long ago as 1997. More interestingly later findings seemed to suggest that while the larger planets might be discernible there was the possibility that smaller earth size planets might also be present.


Interfereometry (Sp?) (1)

Codifex Maximus (639) | about 15 years ago | (#1931383)

I read about a technique call interfereometry in some scientific magazines that may allow for finding earth size planets surrounding distant stars. The technique would use arrays of smaller mirrors or detectors to simulate a larger single unit. Also, a smaller subset of the array could be used to go out-of-phase to cancel out the radiation of the parent star and make the remaining objects easier to analyse.

They'd use spectroscopy and doppler-shift to gain additional information on composition and motion.

Anyone know what techniques they used for the discovery? A URL to a paper?

Time Travel (1)

mholve (1101) | about 15 years ago | (#1931387)

The further back we look, the more we look back in time... That's what I always kind of liked about the whole thing. :)

I hope to live long enough (0)

zonker (1158) | about 15 years ago | (#1931388)

I hope, without the shadow of a doubt, to live long enough to be left alone by these aliens... Probing me all the time... I tell ya...

Not the first of any sort that I can see (1)

JetJaguar (1539) | about 15 years ago | (#1931390)

2) first extra solar multi planet system?

I think you're wrong on this one. IIRC, the discovery of multiple planets around a neutron star was retracted. They made a mistake in their analysis and failed to properly take into account the motion of the Earth....

In fact, the tip off in the neutron star case was that one of the "orbits" they discovered was remarkably similar to the size of the Earth's orbit. After making the proper corrections, the evidence for the planets disappeared.

Interfereometry (Sp?) (1)

JetJaguar (1539) | about 15 years ago | (#1931391)

Marcy et al have detected all their planets spectroscopically. That is, they look for subtle changes in the doppler shift of the central star in the system. So far, none of the planets detected have been observed in any images (that I know of).

As for interferometry, this technique has been used by radio telescopes for decades, but doing this kind of thing with optical telescopes is still in the experimental stages. But basically your information is correct.

Ok, time to name them... (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | about 15 years ago | (#1931392)

There should be some interesting names from mythology for these planets. One is incredibly close to the star - I'm not an astronomer, but how is it that it is not ripped to shreds? How about Icarus? Or is that not impressive enough a mythological figure for a planet?

The one 4 times the size of jupiter sounds interesting. I wonder if it radiates more heat then it receives.

So, do extrasolar planets get names, or are they going to be Ups Andromeda I, II, and III?

Naw... (1)

InThane (2300) | about 15 years ago | (#1931394)

I say we honor the truly great of our community:

Linus Torvalds
Commander Taco (Man, I would love a planet named that...)
and Meept.

Interesting... (1)

tgd (2822) | about 15 years ago | (#1931395)

I think its interesting that they kept saying that three "jupiter-sized" planets were around the star, when in fact its three jupiter-massed planets. Without knowing what they're made of (which they can't do yet -- can't get spectral readings from stuff that close to the star AFAIK), they can't really say what *size* they are.

As gas giants seem to be of the same general origin as stars, but without the mass or energy to sustain or start a fusion process, I'd think it'd be a lot more interesting if these jupiter *massed* planets were (because of their proximity to the star) actually much smaller, but more massive solid planets, or at least more substantially solid planets.

Seems that would tell us something that we don't know -- how common rocky planetary formation happens.

What are they really? (1)

dattaway (3088) | about 15 years ago | (#1931396)

If they were balls of gas, wouldn't the heat and proximity of the sun cause the gas to escape the atmosphere? I remember something about hydrogen escaping our atmosphere into space when it gets charged by the sun's energy.

Maybe these planets are much like Mercury. Who knows, the cooler side may be able to support life. Imagine those hideous Doom characters duking it out on such a radioactive mining planet.

Well We're getting there (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about 15 years ago | (#1931398)

The planets and all the stuff on/in them were created on days Bleem through Florp (inclusive). Then, on Xyzzy, nothing happened.

Steel Beach (1)

leoc (4746) | about 15 years ago | (#1931400)

Hmmm... all Gas Giants eh? Anyone else here read Varley's Steel Beach? Yikes!

Yawn - Wait for proof (1)

dvdeug (5033) | about 15 years ago | (#1931402)

So many of these things have come and been disproved as just camera vibrations or whatever. I'm waiting for the dust to settle and some reliable facts to come out before I worry about it.

up And first CONFIRMED, NOT first (4)

J05H (5625) | about 15 years ago | (#1931403)

There are a number of other planetary systems
that are likely, and one that has been known
but not exactly.

The known system is 55 Cancri, it has two large
planets.

The other "likelies" are Lalande 21185 and a bunch
of pulsars. Lal 21185 has at least two likely
companions that are detectable, but they are long
period orbits (est. 5.8 and 30 year orbits) so
they will take longer to confirm.

The only reason this is getting news is that both
the SFSU and AFOE teams concur on the system. I'm
not dissing on either team, they have both done
insanely cool work that is shattering and
rebuilding our understanding of planetary
sciences. The SFSU team, headed by Marcy and
Butler, have discovered or confirmed the majority
of the extrasolar planets that are known, and
continue to release new results every couple of
months.

For a great resource, check out the Extrasolar
Planets Encyclopedia at: http://www.obspm.fr:80/departement/darc/planets/en cycl.html [obspm.fr]

Not the first of any sort that I can see (1)

jwhyche (6192) | about 15 years ago | (#1931404)

I seem to recall that more than one system has been discovered with more than one planet. I think it was a neutron star.

Not to pick nits, but .. (1)

Planetes (6649) | about 15 years ago | (#1931407)

Uhh.. say what?!? Sol is the name of the sun. I can't speak to Latin but it's the Spanish word for Sun and I'd bet it's also the Latin name. Latin is a language that's a lot older than the term 'solar system'.

Let's adjust the Linux slogan then! (1)

Entity (6683) | about 15 years ago | (#1931408)

Because "world domination" sounds a bit like understatement in this aspect.

Cool, Sort of... (1)

craw (6958) | about 15 years ago | (#1931409)

I once tried to comprehend astronomical distances, but it only made my head hurt. However, 44 light years is not so bad. Let's see, Hitler's Olympic game speech must be on the way back by now; it should arrive in about 25 years.

Incidently, cnn.com reported today that astronomers using the Hubble telescope have identified something that is 13 billion light years away. Try to comprehend that distance! (without the use of any mind altering substance, of course). Furthermore, suppose our universe was just an atom in the fingernail of some alien beast...:)

Well We're getting there (1)

szyzyg (7313) | about 15 years ago | (#1931410)

B ut the Sennsitivity is still lacking to see Jupiter.

I'm glad to find something closer to our solar system - all thos gas giants on 3 day orbits were starting to make the chances of life elsewhere look less and less likely.

Effects of the discovery of ET life (1)

inkdesign (7389) | about 15 years ago | (#1931411)

er, I could have sworn I've heard the exact same thing in a Star Trek movie... I agree wholehartedly about the religious dogma thing, it's brainwashing, plain and simple.

Well We're getting there (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 15 years ago | (#1931413)

I wonder which day GOD created these worlds?
And did He build a firmament above them as well?
I eagerly anticipate the tripe I'll hear about
this in the local xtian media.

NOT like our solar system (1)

afniv (10789) | about 15 years ago | (#1931422)

"Jupiter-sized" planets at about the equivalent orbits of Venus, Earth, and Mars does not make a similar solar system. It might make a planetary system.

The theory for the beginning of our solar system uses the assumption that the more dense materials coagulated into the inner "rocky" planets, where as the less dense gases coagulated into the outer gas giants. This new planetary system seams to put this theory on its head.

And, life as we know it would not exist in such a planetary systm, since no Earth sized planet could exist at the proper orbit with these large planets forcing their weight on their neighbors.

So to say this new planetary system is like our own, is not a fair statement. IMHO.
~afniv
"Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"

Effects of the discovery of ET life (1)

binarybits (11068) | about 15 years ago | (#1931423)

It would force us to re-evaluate our place in the grand scheme of things, and it would hopefully unite us in ways that would allow us to put some of our more petty differences aside. The promotion of global peace and brotherhood would IMHO be the greatest impact that a discovery such as this would bring about. Since we'd know once and for all how insignificant we are on a universal scale, there would be more propensity for us to work with each other, rather than against.

I don't think this is the case. The reason that the world does not have "peace and brotherhood" is not that people are not being nice to each other. There are serious political, economic, philosophical, scientific, and moral issues that divide us, and the existence of life elsewhere will do nothing to solve them. We will still have power-hungry dicatators, overreaching governments, impoliteness, and all our other problems.

The main impact of discovering non-sentient life would be biological. It would allow biologists to do true comparative biology, and discover whih features of life are essaential and which are merely accidents of Earth's conditions.

Now discovery of and communication with sentient life would be literally the most important event in human history. Just the scientific and cultural exchanges that would take place would be incredible. But there is this little thing called the speed of light, and until someone proves Einstien wrong, none of will actually see non-terran life. Even these three planets are too far away for us to ever go there.

New telescopes (1)

Christopher Thomas (11717) | about 15 years ago | (#1931425)

This is pretty exciting though, I heard on E-Town that they are building a really wide telescope that uses lot's of little telescope and some computer magic to make them act like a super sized telescope and they are going to launch it into space like Voyager. By the time it get's to Mars they are expecting it to show visual light pictures of planets around other stars.


First of all, IIRC there were about four plans on the drawing board for more advanced, space-based telescopes. Many of these would use optical interferometry to get better resolution, much as is presently done with arrays of radio telescopes. This does *not* allow you to detect fainter objects - it _does_ let you see details more clearly in objects that you _can_ see, though. The idea is that we'd be able to distinguish the image of a planet from the image of the star it orbits using telescopes like these. IIRC a proof-of-concept system was being set up on Earth by linking two conventional telescopes in adjacent observatories.


The telescopes won't go out to Mars. IIRC, they were just going a reasonable distance away from _Earth_, so that the glow of sunlight reflected off of us wouldn't interfere with their measurements as much. I don't remember exactly where they were going to be placed.


I agree that the results produced should be quite interesting.

What are they really? (2)

Christopher Thomas (11717) | about 15 years ago | (#1931426)

Are these actually gas giants?
Are they balls of dirt?
What?


The inner one is almost certainly rock, as gas would have boiled away long ago (a planet orbiting that close to our sun would receive 350 times as much light per unit area as Earth).


OTOH, maybe a Jupiter-like planet's gravity well would be deep enough to keep it in.


I have questions about the equipment they are using and such, but the link dosn't answer much.


At least some of the planet-detecting experiments that produced results checked the doppler shift of stars' spectra, looking for periodic oscillations in how quickly it was moving towards/away from us. A regular oscillation means that it is being tugged back and forth by a planet orbiting it. This technique only works well for relatively large planets orbiting relatively close, which is why Jupiter-sized planets and larger are the kinds that are being detected.


I vaguely recall reading about another technique that actually looked for wobble in the star's position directly, but I could be mistaken about that.

Not to pick nits, but .. (1)

Kamelion (12129) | about 15 years ago | (#1931429)

Oh great. And I was quite happy with the astrophysics society not having to be politcally correct.

If humans were to ever set up a colony in another "planatary system" and used solar panels, whould we have to change the name to stellar panels instead? Or maybe Proximus Centari panels?

Solar system sounds good to me.

I hope to live long enough (1)

jabber (13196) | about 15 years ago | (#1931430)

to die, knowing without the shadow of a doubt, that we are not alone.

Not the first of any sort that I can see (1)

erice (13380) | about 15 years ago | (#1931432)

1) first extra solar planets? Hardly.

2) first extra solar multi planet system?

No. *Most* of the extra solar planetary systems have had multiple members. Even the first, the weird system arround a neutron star had multiple planets.

3) First with hot Jovians? No. I remember reading about those years ago.

4) First to be directly observed? No. No mention of direct observation. If they had, there would be some clue as to how a jovian mass planet survives that close to a star.

5) First planetary system arround a sun like star?

Possible. Vega is a planetary system still being formed. The neutron star system is obviously nothing like ours. I don't recall the rest.

...time to go check out sci.space.science,sci.astro, and alt.sci.planetary for some real information.

Only one pulsar system was retracted. (1)

erice (13380) | about 15 years ago | (#1931433)

There's more than one pulsar system. PSR1829-10 was retracted. PSR1257+12 most definately was not and is considdered confirmed with multiple planets. (as much as any can be considdered confirmed. No extrasolar planets have been directly imaged)
See http://www.public.asu.edu/~sciref/exo plnt.htm [asu.edu]

First (other) solar system discovered? (1)

jerodd (13818) | about 15 years ago | (#1931436)

It is a first other solar system discovered in the same sense that about half of the /. population made a first post today.

Part of the problem is that those arrangements of gas cloused are so far away no–one really knows what is going on. We can't see it too well, and can't conduct any experiments. It's also in a different zone of time than ourself (albeit but a few dozen years).

Cheers,
Joshua "I should have used dc to calculate the number of years so someone wouldn't humiliate me" Rodd

I'm not trying to brag... (1)

peterb (13831) | about 15 years ago | (#1931437)

...but you could have read about this yesterday (beating the "Strict Press Embargo until 10 am April 15") on memepool [memepool.com] . Hey, self-promotion is my middle name :-)

Life on a moon in that system? (1)

Maktoo (16901) | about 15 years ago | (#1931444)

So I wonder if there are any moons on those Gas giants. If one is 2 times the size of jupiter and has a similar year to Earth than maybe it's warm enough to have an atmosphere... that is if the giants gravity doesn't suck it right off...

neat, I can hardly wait for FreeBSD/Mac/Windows versions of the SETI@home clients... all three machines will be searching :)

Planetary formation theories (2)

Kaufmann (16976) | about 15 years ago | (#1931445)

While I do agree that this combination (three gas giants) is quite odd, it hardly "invalidates" modern formation theories.

Why? Because scientific theories are designed to predict the average cases - what should happen in a theoretical closed system with specific characteristics. The problem is that the universe is hardly this kind of system. Rather, it's a very real, huge system that is subject to every kind of improbability you can think of. This is what it means to say that "if it's not forbidden, it's compulsory". Thus, there is no reason to believe that there will be no exceptions when you apply such a theory to the real universe; the only way to know if it's a good theory is if these 'odd' ones are rare enough.

So far, we only have two planetary systems on which to test them, and while our solar system can very well be the 'odd' one, it's just as likely that the new one is the 'odd' one. Or that both are 'odd'. Or that none is.

Planetary formation theories (1)

Chip Stillmore (16985) | about 15 years ago | (#1931446)

Perhaps they should take a non-linear approach to theorizing about the creation of planets?

"However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist."

Stephen Hawking

What are they really? (1)

Psychofreak (17440) | about 15 years ago | (#1931447)

Are these actually gas giants?
Are they balls of dirt?
What?
I have questions about the equipment they are using and such, but the link dosn't answer much.
I'm also glad to see there is other stuff in teh universe!

Not to pick nits, but .. (1)

DGolden (17848) | about 15 years ago | (#1931449)

As an aside,
I do hope that if we meet aliens we call ourselves "Terrans" from the "Sol" system.

Terran sounds much less wimpy than Human or Earthling.

We can have a kick-ass "Terran Empire" with a cool logo, instead of a wussy "human federation" or whatever.





where do i sign up for the alpha survey team??? (1)

Irie (21539) | about 15 years ago | (#1931458)

Ok coupla days ago Rob had the 27 million dollar fusion reactor story...combine that with some serious cryo research into cold sleep and perhaps my kids will get to be in the first ramscoops out of the Sol system...provided of course that >we can maintain a civilization long enough to create the daughter colonies that would prevent humankind from becoming extinct or causing its own extiction...does anyone take the long view anymore??

one solar system wont do it (1)

Irie (21539) | about 15 years ago | (#1931459)

say for instance we colonize europa (prolly the best choice actually we KNOW there is water ice there) the colony would still be very dependant on the motherworld. so any disaster, natural or not will still take out the in system colonies. leaving them without the resources to make the tools that make the tools that make things go. so really the survival of the race depends on leaving the cradle.

I wish to protest (1)

Mr T (21709) | about 15 years ago | (#1931460)

This isn't a "Solar system" this is a "plantary system."

Sol, the Sun, is our's. Not their's. They can't have a "Solar System"

It's just like the Moon. Other planets have moons but "The Moon" is our moon.

This is pretty exciting though, I heard on E-Town that they are building a really wide telescope that uses lot's of little telescope and some computer magic to make them act like a super sized telescope and they are going to launch it into space like Voyager. By the time it get's to Mars they are expecting it to show visual light pictures of planets around other stars. In addition to that, they are going to have photospectroposcyasdf(sp?) equipment on board that can sniff what's in the atmosphere on those planets, that way they can tell if there are the right chemicals to produce life, or if we're lucky they might find smog and pollution.. I think those planets might get a bit close to that star but it's exciting, none the less.

Not to pick nits, but .. (1)

MindStalker (22827) | about 15 years ago | (#1931461)

Well I think the name Sol is accually derived from the word Solar and not the other way around. So Solar describes sun/star entities in general

OT: Naming Stars? (1)

maw (25860) | about 15 years ago | (#1931469)

This is kind of off topic, but.. I heard an advertisement on the radio about a year ago, where they offered to name a star after someone in return for a donation to research causes.

Anyone know more about this? I think I would be interested.

The world is full of firsts... (2)

tragedy (27079) | about 15 years ago | (#1931470)

This is apparantly the fist time they've found _multiple_ planets around a single star, which apparantly qualifies as a solar system (that's not quite the definition of solar system that I've always used, but I'm not exactly the expert here). To me it sounds vaguely like a sports commentator saying: "...next up to bat is John Smith, who has hit more home runs on wet Tuesdays during his second at bat than any other player in the history of the game!"
I'm eagerly awaiting the day they can find something Earth-sized around one of these stars. Such things are sure to exist, whether we actually find them or not, it would just be nice to be able to point to them sometimes. I don't think that there's anything particularly unusual about the huge gas giants they've been seeing. After all, that's about the best they can manage to resolve, so that's what they're going to see if they're out there. The conditions that allow them to detect these planets may also make these planetary systems unusual. So, it's no great surprise that these discoveries throw the existing theories of planet formation on their heads, especially when you consider the fact that all we've had to form theories with is our own system.

Yes it is a "first" ... (1)

Hubec (28321) | about 15 years ago | (#1931476)

It's the first time there's been confirmation of _multiple_ planets orbiting the same star (not incl. the sun).

First System (1)

Minstrel78 (28344) | about 15 years ago | (#1931479)

The article mentioned discovery of other, Jupiter sized planets around distant stars, but states that this is the first discoverd "system" which they define as having multiple planets.

Basic physics dictate mass, NOT composition (1)

Grandpa_Spaz (29498) | about 15 years ago | (#1931481)

>- an AC wrote:
Supposedly they can determine the volume of the planet in question, but without knowledge of the materials how can you possible determine it's mass?

It is quite easy to determine the mass of a body with out knowledge of its composition. By using doppler and spectral shifts, one can gauge the tangential acceleration of the body. Additionally, we can, by its very interaction with the star, determine the force exerted to maintain the orbit. Once both of those are known, a simple calculation of FORCE=MASS*ACCELERATION will yield the mass. Now, all that remains is a way to determine composition and size.

Planetary Detection (1)

Dopefish (33181) | about 15 years ago | (#1931483)


Butler and Marcy (the guys who discovered these planets) are using doppler shift almost exclusively. The pages and pages of data they have is incomprehensibly nutty.

As to where they do their work, I believe they spent a lot of time at Keck (Hawaii) in 97-98 and were in several sites in Australia beofe that (though I'm not sure).

where do i sign up for the alpha survey team??? (1)

Dopefish (33181) | about 15 years ago | (#1931484)


Well, the way I see it, we've got 4-5 billion years in this solar system. That gives us a good amount of time to get our eggs out of one basket (Earth).

1. Let's hit Mars. No issue there, with technological advances, we can colonize that little piece of rock. NASA's working on it, right? (wink)

2. From there, we can try Europa. Get a little farther out.

3. THEN we can move to get out of this two-bit corner of the universe!

Not to pick nits, but .. (1)

cje (33931) | about 15 years ago | (#1931487)

Well I think the name Sol is accually derived from the word Solar and not the other way around.

No. This is sort of like saying that the word "tube" is actually derived from "tubular."

So Solar describes sun/star entities in general

The word you want is "stellar."

Effects of the discovery of ET life (1)

cje (33931) | about 15 years ago | (#1931488)

Confirmation of what we've suspected for a long time (that is, that life not only exists elsewhere in the Universe, but is abundant) would be a bit more than "neat." :-) It would force us to re-evaluate our place in the grand scheme of things, and it would hopefully unite us in ways that would allow us to put some of our more petty differences aside. The promotion of global peace and brotherhood would IMHO be the greatest impact that a discovery such as this would bring about. Since we'd know once and for all how insignificant we are on a universal scale, there would be more propensity for us to work with each other, rather than against.

Another positive effect of a discovery such as this is that it would sound the death knell for young-Earth biblical creationism as practiced by Christian fundamentalists. If it sounds like I'm being snide, I'm not; this would be immeasurably positive for the human race as a whole. Religious fundamentalism is the greatest threat that this world has ever known. It is mental illness masquerading as faith, and anything that helps drive it out of the human psyche once and for all would be incredibly beneficial.

Time Travel (1)

cje (33931) | about 15 years ago | (#1931489)

I've always thought this is cool, too. When I drag my scope out into the backyard and cruise around the galaxies in the Virgo cluster, it's kind of thought-provoking when distances are considered: when the light that you're seeing actually left some of those galaxies, dinosaurs still ruled the Earth. :-)

Effects of the discovery of ET life (1)

cje (33931) | about 15 years ago | (#1931490)

I do not think that anything (as far as I have read - I have just recently come to Christ) in the Bible absolutely rules out the possibility of other life created in the universe by the Lord. I could be mistaken about this - anybody have a different opinion?

Well, not creationism in general, but the literal young-Earth kind. These are the people who believe that the Earth (and, as a consequence, the entire universe) is only 6000 years old. They take objection to the idea that there is intelligent life on other planets, since the only intelligent life that was created (in their view) was Adam and Eve, since that is all that the Bible mentions, and the Bible is completely and wholly inerrant (again, in their view.) Furthermore, since the fall of Adam and Eve from grace (the "original sin") is what they believe to be the cornerstone of Christianity, they object vehemently to the idea that humanity is not alone among the stars. (Trust me, I've run into more than one of these folks.)

In any case, I am very sorry you feel that true Christianity is a "mental illness".

My comment pertained to religious fundamentalism in general, not to any particular religion. There is nothing wrong with religion at all, so long as it is constrained to contexts where it is appropriate, and I don't mean to offend. However, I stand by my opinion that rabid fundamentalist beliefs are dangerous.

Not to pick nits, but .. (2)

cje (33931) | about 15 years ago | (#1931493)

.. the term should be "planetary system." The name of our sun being Sol, the term "Solar system" describes our planetary system. This being the case, "extrasolar planetary system" would seem to be the best phrase to describe something like this.

Not to pick nits, but .. (2)

cje (33931) | about 15 years ago | (#1931494)

If humans were to ever set up a colony in another "planatary system" and used solar panels, whould we have to change the name to stellar panels instead? Or maybe Proximus Centari panels?

Well, it's an interesting question, and we could come up with several other examples. When we establish a colony on Mars and are describing an honest, straightforward colonist, would we describe him/her as being "down-to-Mars?" If we found a new, inhabitable planet with a sizable moon and set a spacecraft down on it, would we call it a "lunar" landing?

Over time, any language is going to pick up words (adjectives, specifically) that are tied to a specific place or object, inadvertantly or otherwise. The only point I'm trying to make is that "solar system" in this context is not strictly correct, and yes, I am picking a nit (as I admitted in the subject line.)

The world is full of firsts... (1)

the ignorant masses (34607) | about 15 years ago | (#1931495)

>

Why would it have to be Earth sized? Why not bigger? Or smaller for that matter. Life on this planet was a fluke. A billion to one chance that something went right creating just the right environment. Maybe had the earth been bigger or smaller, the situation would not have been just perfect, and we wouldn't be talking here right now.

The thing is though, a billion to one oppurtunity in the universe is really good odds. It's when we start to narrow it down to fit our wants that the probablity goes down........: Well, it has to be within a certain distance of us........it has to be a form of life we can recognize......how evolved it might be.

Like it's been said many times, the chances that there is some form of "life" out there is probably high (no one really knows). But whether we will find it now, later, or ever is the question.

-Sarkis-

Q.
"What is the avg. population of the Universe?"

A.
"Zero."
x = infinit planets , y = finite habited planets
y/x = 0, as the limit of x approaches infinite.

The world is full of firsts... (1)

the ignorant masses (34607) | about 15 years ago | (#1931496)

Stupid transmission errors.

x = number of unihabitant planets, growing at a
rate of some number s.

y = number of habited plantes, growing at a
rate of some number t.

As is right now, x >> y, and increasing. Therefore s >> t.

If x grows at a faster rate than y, the limit as x approaches infinite of y/x is still approaches 0.

-Sarkis-

I wish to protest, to the protest (1)

moving target (34967) | about 15 years ago | (#1931500)

Sol, the Sun, is our's. Not their's. They can't have a "Solar System"

It's just like the Moon. Other planets have moons but "The Moon" is our moon.


if we have "The Moon" and other planets have "moons"
then wouldn't we have "The Solar System" while the others would have "solar systems"

sematics is sematics is something else

you think that's something? (1)

moving target (34967) | about 15 years ago | (#1931501)

a local radio station offered for a gran-prize ten thousand dollars or a ride on the space shuttle

i know which one i would pick

puny heu-mon (1)

moving target (34967) | about 15 years ago | (#1931502)

what makes you think you can have a empire

don't you know that the whole universe is about to be bought by Microsquish

Effects of the discovery of ET life (1)

Guttata (35478) | about 15 years ago | (#1931509)

I think it would be fascinating to find life on other planets; however, as far as I see it, this would not sound the "death knell" for Christian fundamentalist beliefs (i.e., creationism). I do not think that anything (as far as I have read - I have just recently come to Christ) in the Bible absolutely rules out the possibility of other life created in the universe by the Lord. I could be mistaken about this - anybody have a different opinion?

In any case, I am very sorry you feel that true Christianity is a "mental illness". It is true that false Christians have caused innumerable hardships on the world... but those people are wolves in sheep's clothing. True Christianity recognizes the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ - and the Truth of the Bible.

I wish to protest (1)

Bluedove (93417) | about 15 years ago | (#1931513)

Well, they could have a Solar system if they also
had a sun named Sol. Who are we to tell aliens
what they can call their star? It's just like my
friend Joe, who also has a cousin named Joe. If
there were bodies orbiting them, we could call
both systems "Joeular Systems". :-P
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