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First small planet found outside our solar system

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the it's-like-the-earth-baby dept.

Science 169

jrb writes "For the first time, a small planet (i.e. non-gas giant sized) has potentially been found outside the solar system, helped by a gravitational lensing effect that magnified it. The BBC is carrying the full story. "

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Re:Moderation alert (1)

Yarn (75) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683784)

I'm not sure whats funnier, the original post or this :)

Re:Common sense (3)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683785)

Science is inductive. A theory is proposed, then grows in acceptance as a large body of data is found to agree with the theory, while none is found that contradicts it.

We've had theories of solar system evolution, planetary spacing, formation of asteroid belts, and others, for a long time. But these theories are very unsatisfying because we only have one datapoint, our own solar system.

This may not seem important, if you believe that the solar system is completely typical. By the nature of a bell curve, most likely our system is in most respects. But there is very little evidence it is yet. We were already pretty certain that gas giant planets are not uncommon. This is the very first evidence that small rocky planets may not be uncommon either.

According to my calculations the feat is very roughly equivalent to detecting a speck one micrometer in radius at a distance of two kilometers, so I'm impressed anyway.

Re:But how far? (1)

Suydam (881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683796)

I was dissapointed, though, that the article missed any mention of just how far away this new planet is, and perhaps how far it would take to reach it using conventional space travel. Or better still, how likely it is to be Earth-like in ways that might make it colonisable if we were ever able to reach it...
1. How far away - you're right they should have mentioned this
2. How far [long?] it would take to reach it - you can do the math yourself....very very long time seeing as the nearest star is 3.4 light years away and we're travelling at a tiny fraction of the speed of light 3. How likely it would be Earth-like - give me a break...they can barele tell the planet is even there. They'd need to know chemical make up to tell that.

Re:seeing is believing (1)

substrate (2628) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683797)

You'll be holding your breath for a long time considering we don't even have pictures of pluto's surface yet unless you count this. [nasa.gov] I have a lot more faith in a reputable scientists explanation for gravitational anomaly and such than what most people think they've seen with their eyes. To an astronomer this is seeing, though it may seem unconventional to some people. The human eye is just a sensor that happens to operate in the range of wavelengths we call visible light. A film used in an X-ray is a sensor that detects energy not visible to the human eye. Most people don't doubt doctors interpretations of X-rays. We even except more estoric sensing systems such as magnetic resonance imaging where things are mapped non-linearily into a range of colours. Given that the average doctor is much less rigorous than the average astronomer it shouldn't be much of a leap of faith to at least accept that there is a good chance that the object is a non-gas-giant planet orbiting a star.

Re:Common sense (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683798)

Not to piss all over your point (with which I agree in principle), but Eratosthenes calculated the diameter of the Earth to within 1% over 2000 years ago.
Also, today's technology is ridiculously superior to anything we had even ten years ago. All this instrumentation means more data, and the more data we have the more it seems implausible that we're on the only habitable planet in the galaxy, let alone the universe.
Then, of course, there's the definition of 'habitable'. Has Star Trek taught us nothing? Life probably doesn't need yellow dwarf stars with rocky planets 150M km away.

Couple of clarifications (4)

Shin Dig (27213) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683799)

Just trying to wrap up some points that were being put out here, and maybe answer some questions in the meantime with my intermediate knowledge of astronomy.

  1. Finding this planet, if the evidence leans towards that theory, is a big deal, as so far all we have found arround other systems are very big gas giants. One solar system is really bad for statistical analysis. We could be the fluke of the universe, so just because it happened here doesn't mean it had to happen somewhere else.
  2. Nearly all planet observations, an really all astronomical observations, are objects infered by the bizare behavior of well lit objects. Faint changes in spectrum of a single bright object, means that it is probably a binary system... etc. The best analogy I have heard about astronomy is a goldfish trying to figure out what the world outside its pond is like. It can never go there, but can learn from indirect observations.
  3. I assume that the gravity lensing difference between the two stars can easily be picked out because although they both throw a lot of light, they don't have the same spectrum, and probably not even the same redshift. You can then subtract out the closer star because you very carefully observed it when there was nothing significant behind it.

I don't claim to be an expert on such issues, but hopefully someone got something from my little rant here.

Colonisable? WTF? (1)

Diskena (10972) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683800)

Or better still, how likely it is to be Earth-like in ways that might make it colonisable if we were ever able to reach it...

What is wrong with you people? You make me think the dude in "The Matrix" was right: we're just like a virus.. destroying everything around and then spreading further.

Why the hell do you want to colonise everything? Isn't it a better idea to stop polluting our own planet? Stop wasting its resources so rapidly?

Gee, and they picture aliens as evil in those shitty american movies.

Re:Common sense (2)

Max von H. (19283) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683801)

Come on, everybody knows the earth is flat and travels through space on the back of a giant turtle (Great A'Tuin), carried by four giant elephants.

pffffff.

Re:Lensing (1)

Darth Maul (19860) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683802)

Light doesn't have mass. It's just that a
huge massive object (planet) bends space-time
around it, so when light travels in its own
straight line, it follows a curved space-time.

Think of a large sheet on which you place a
heavy bowling ball. It'll sag the sheet in
where it is resting. If you then try to
roll a small ball on the sruface of the sheet,
it'll bend around where the bowling ball is.
In the reference frame of the smaller ball
it IS following a straight line, but in the
frame of the bowling ball, it's curving.
Weird, eh?

Photons are weird things. They can act as
waves and as particles. Don't think about it
too much without the proper amount of
caffeine...

Re:Lensing (1)

Glytch (4881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683803)

>Light has mass, not much, but some, so any
>sufficently massive object can bend light
>perceptibly.

Err, what? Light has mass? I want to know what you're smoking, 'cause I want some too.

Light does not have mass. Gravity affects both matter and radiation. This is how, theoretically, black holes work.

easy to test that one (1)

jsm2 (89962) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683804)

If the planet is the home of Steve Jobs, then it will have an eccentricity in its orbit, due to the necessity of having the whole planet revolve around Jobs rather than vice versa.

jsm

Re:Common senses - heavy objects fall faster (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683805)

If you had extensive physics (any freshman college course for example) you would know that heavy objects do in fact fall faster in a vacuum. (In air you get into wind resestance trouble) However the other variables overshadow this for any object you could reasonably test. (on earth those variables are more or less constant, except for the difference in mass. But objects smaller than say the moon tend to be the same mass for all practical purposes)

now what we need... (2)

einstein (10761) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683809)

it would be really really cool if the could find out more about all these planets they are finding...
right now all they can tell is mass (and from that, size) and dimensions of it's orbit...

and an even better question, is anyone pointing radio telescopes at these flying rocks?

Common sense (1)

Lonesmurf (88531) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683811)

I don't understand why people make such a fuss about finding planets. Sure it's nice to have scientific hard evidence that they are there.. but was there ever any real doubt as to the existance of planets outside our solar system?

I mean, come on people! Apply a little logic here: it's a BIG UNIVERSE.. there *has* to be more out there than what we have in our little SS.

Let's not be naive about this.
--

Anyone ? (0)

_Spirit (23983) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683813)

It's small

It's a planet

But....

Does it run Linux ?


Message on our company Intranet:
"You have a sticker in your private area"

Re:Common sense (1)

TummyX (84871) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683815)

Just cause most of us (and i'd say all of us that are intelligent) find the existance of extrasolartary planets realistic - doesn't mean we shouldn't be looking for them.
Finding them is just like finding more evidence for evolution - it's obvious - but it's nice to be reminded how right we are :)

Distant planets (1)

cemerson (21094) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683818)

While it's nice to have this sort of evidence of planets around other stars, it's hard to actually really believe it without seeing real pictures of the planet itself.

It's somehow quite depressing that we're extremely unlikely to visit these other solar systems within our lifetime, or even the next few centuries. It's hard to get your head around the idea that even at the fastest speed possible, it may take millennia to get there.

I'd quite like to see the day when (if) we have colonies in other systems, or even other planets in this solar system. It's frustrating seeing it so far in the future.

I should probably stop dreaming and read/watch some more SF. :-)

That's a relief (3)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683821)

After a report [newscientist.com] in this week's new scientist about rocky planets being formed by gamma ray bursts, I was a wee bit worried. If this is such a planet, there's no need to divide the Drake Equation [irelands-web.ie] by a thousand.

Re:Common sense (0)

itp (6424) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683823)

We're not being naive. You are. Look up the Anthropic principle sometime. Were there only one planet in the Universe, odds are we'd be on it, as we're life forms capable of observation. Our viewpoint is biased by this. It does not follow immediately that there are other solar systems, despite the size of the Universe.

--
Ian Peters

Re:Anyone ? (1)

infinitas (47313) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683824)

Probably runs PlanIX
But watch it for a while... if it turns blue and stops spinning, then we'll know the truth.

Re:Anyone ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683825)

Work is underway on the ALF distribution (alien linux form)

Clear up a few points (5)

zvesda (91186) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683826)

Having been lucky enough to do a literature review on this topic recently (as part of my 3rd year u/g course) I can clear up a couple of issues;

The method used works as follows; when gravitational field of the planet warps the space around it, any light from the star that might otherwise have 'missed' the telescope/eye/pinhole camera (!) would be 'bent' back to the aforementioned instrument.

Hence we do _not_ see the planet, rather the effect of the planet on a star which is how all extrasolar planet detection methods (except one which has failed to date) work.

We have no instruments capable of resolving a planet, but NASA & ESA both havbe projects that in 2020-2060 will be able to do so at IR frequencies. Hence the BBC picture is wrong. All it pointed out was the star.

This method is not repeatable, since it relies on a chance that a background star acts as the source and the planet in orbit around an unseen star all line up for us.

You might think, 'doesn't the planet star lens the background one?' - it does! The additional blip caused by the planet on the light curve is what gives it away.

The typical distance to the background star (usually in the galactic plane) is 100 parsecs, the planet's parent star is usually half this distance for geometric reasons.

Hence it's really far away! We can tell virtually nothing about the planet apart from it's mass (which won't help diffrentiate between tiny gas giants and big terrestrial types).

If anyone want's more info (or even <gasp> a copy of my lit review, written for an intelligent person) then email [mailto] me. Dosvidania tovarish!

Re:Hey wait a minute!! (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683827)

Hard to say. I didn't read the artical, so I don't know how far away it is, but since the nearest star is 8 (10? lets call it 8) light years away. If we assume that the universe ends (and mirror starts) at say 25 light years, we already know that the russions did not have a space station up 25 years ago. If the curve is farther away, you might be able to obserbe dinasors in their nateral habitat. If only our telescopes are that powerful - I understand that in theory they cannot be that powerful.

Re:SETI (1)

ushirageri (80820) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683828)

While I'll agree it's a stretch, you could make a case that SETI is searching for life on other worlds. Therefore, searching for those worlds does, in effect, share some of the same traits.

You are on obvious case in point that most humans cannot think and talk at the same time

Light has no mass (1)

rve (4436) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683829)

No no no, light has no mass. Therefor Newtonian fysics predicts that light should tot be affected by a mass. Relativistic physics does predict that radiation is affected ("It's easy once you understand that space-time is curved" - DeeDee, in Dexter's nightmare). This fact was used as once of the first observations that supported Einstein's theory: during an eclips, stars that were near the sun, could be observed to be slightly out of place, indicating that the mass of the sun had curved the path of the light between earth and those stars a little.

Not the first (2)

CigarBuff (61105) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683830)

This is the first _Earth-sized_ planet discovered. Not the first planet. Other Jupiter-sized planets have already been discovered, IIRC.

Re:Light has no mass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683831)

fysics
Someone send me a spelling checker please.

Re:Common sense (2)

nfgaida (68606) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683832)

People aren't being naive.. it's called arrogance. Specificly religious arrogance. The major religions have always tried to teach:
1) We are created like god(ess) therefor humans are unique 2) The universe revolves around us. We are the reason for the universe existing. 3) more that i can't think of...

At any rate, it is no suprise to me that the majority of people think of our planet as the only one to support life in the universe. and that WE are the definition of life. We meaning lifetypes here on earth. Carbon based and all that. Even science has been limited by religion, limiting our search for ETs and space exploration in general.

I always thought when i was a kid that there were millions of planets. of course most of what i read as a child was Sci-Fi, but when i started taking science classes and reading actual science litature, i relized how far we had to go yet.

nate

Re:That's a relief (1)

Johannes K. (27905) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683833)

Not necessarily true. The reason they stated in the New Scientist article for dividing by a thousand is that only one in a thousand stars is close enough to a gamma burst to form rocky planets.

It seems likely that the star they discovered the planet of is relatively close by (in astronomical terms, that is). Therefore, if we were close enough, that other star was probably also close enough to the same gamma burst. (Or how much do stars drift in the 4.5 billion year span we're talking about, anyway?)

I want Drake's Equation to give a high answer as much as the next geek, but still...

Re:Common sense (2)

wanderingwalrus (85361) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683844)

Like some old proverbe went, every long journey begins with just one step. (or sth like that) Discovering gigantic planets was first achieved hardly a decade ago and now we've found a small rocky planet like ours. Soon we may be able see them clearly enough to analyse its atmosphere through the light it reflects to see if it would be fit for life... One things lead to another in the world of science

Re:Lensing (3)

Anonymous Colin (69389) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683845)

Well, uh, no.

The rest mass of a photon (particle of electro-magnetic radiation, which includes all frequencies of visible light) is 0 - not 0."some very small amount" but just plain 0. And, in the absence of electro-magnetic fields, a photon has speed c in all relativistic frames of reference. (hence "c" is the "speed of light", which is "invariant in a vacuum").

The simplest way to think of what is actually happening is to think of space itself being "bent" by gravity and so the path of light through that space is not straight in the classical, Euclidean/Cartesian sense.

Another way to describe what is happening, without having to understand what is meant by space being "bent" (after all, any N-dimensional manifold can be embedded in a 2*N [-1?] - dimensional Euclidean space) is that light travels along a path in space-time with minimum seperation, where seperation is a 4-dimensional measure, somewhat akin to distance, determined by the metric tensor of the space-time traversed. In the presence of a gravitational field caused by mass (actually any gravitational field - but thats an even weirder subject), the metric tensor differs from that of Euclidean 4-space, so the path of a photon is NOT a Euclidean straight line.

(Of course, the simplest approach is just to say that gravity bends light and not try to explain why ;-)

Re:Distant planets (1)

DarkTrick (91247) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683846)

Yeah, but we'll have to wait until Nasa get their Planet Finder program fully underway before we start seeing more 'tangible' information on the planets themselves. And what with the grim budget cuts congress have just dumped on them, the project might never happen.

*sigh*

Politicians. Don't you just love 'em?

Dan
--

Earth-like? But how much? (2)

Mur! (19589) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683847)

Part of the problem I see with this while thing (and with astronomy in general) is that, depending on how far away this star is (and the article never said), we're seeing this 'earth-sized' planet probably *millions* of years ago. What was Earth like millions of years ago? Even thousands of years ago? A lot can happen in the amount of time light takes to travel from a distant star to earth - species come and go, cultures rise and fall... For all we know some aliens might have already blown the place up for an interstellar highway!

Re:Couple of clarifications (1)

nfgaida (68606) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683848)

> We could be the fluke of the universe



How likely is that? out of the 300 billion stars or so, (give or take a few billion) that our planet would be the only one? Come on... i'm not blaming you for this view, cause many people have it.. our society has it. It goes back to my point about religious arrogance.



face it people, we aren't the best, the smartest, etc. we are *nothing* compared to the universe. this is why people like the arrogance view better.. it suits their self esteem more.

Re:The only problem with looking for RF signals... (3)

dentin (2175) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683849)

Actually, I think your estimate is a little low. I've been fiddling with some of these questions for a while now, and even have a sort of simulator that generates star systems. It looks (as near as I can tell) that about one in 10 star systems has a planet with liquid water, reasonable gravity, and appropriate temperature range.

Also, current thinking is that the odds of life happening on such a planet is fairly high... on the order of 10 to 50% (from various abiogenesis experiments). Of course we only have one real data point, but the evidence seems to point to the idea that life isnt that hard to make.

The probability of intelligence is significantly lower, but once they have intelligence the probability of rf technology is effectively 1, so that term vanishes as well. I don't think intelligence is that rare, and that after 5 billion years of evolution, I would put this factor around .5. You are free to use your own value of course, but given that semi-intelligent creatures abound on this rock, I don't think intelligent creatures who can use tools are that far off.

Probability of emission frequency if fairly low as well, however not quite as low as you would think: There are certain bands that are the best for transmitting in. Most of the spectrum is filled with broadband noise, and there are a few marker frequencies that would be the most efficient/effective to transmit on. Instead of 1e-6, I'd be a bit more conservative and put it at 1e-4.

Of course there is one more term you forgot to mention: the length of time an alien race might transmit such a signal. This is pretty much anyone's guess, but id place it at no more than 500 years - which is a really short period of time. This factor should be divided by the average age of the stars we will be looking at, which would be about 5 billion years. This factor alone works out to 1e-7.

So the net result is .1(star with planet)*.1(planet with life)*.5(tool/rf using life)*1e-4(proper frequency band)*1e-7(prob we will catch them transmitting)

This works out to about 5e-14 per star, which is still pretty low, but not 1e-24. Also, we can get rid of the 1e-4 factor by improving our detection technology. Additionally, the 1e-7 number may be significantly larger if electromagnetics end up being the only way to communicate across large distances. I wouldn't expect much EM radiation from the planet though, as eventually everything would go to cable/fiber optics instead of radiated waves.

So while the odds are still highly against us, they arent quite as bad as you depict and we can increase them over time.

-dentin

Re:Common senses - heavy objects fall faster (2)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683850)

"If you had extensive physics (any freshman college course for example) you would know that heavy objects do in fact fall
faster in a vacuum."

Sorry, the gravitational force is greater on a massier object, but this increase in force balances the increase in mass precisely, so the acceleration of an object due to gravity is independent of its mass.

Assuming m1 is the object exerting gravity, and m2 is the object affected, the acceleration a2 for m2 is

a2 = F/m2 = (G*m1*m2/d*d)/m2 = G*m1/d*d

That is, acceleration, and hence velocity, is independent of the size of the mass accelerated.

Re:That's a relief (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683851)

The other star was at the center of our galaxy. That's a long ways away. Furthermore, it's unlikely to have moved from the arm to the center in 4.5 billion years.

Re:Common sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683852)

All of your points are valid, but it is important to moderate the nastiness of human nature with a few rules. While major religions might be responsible for some nasty inter-faith conflicts, by definition there are no intra-faith conflicts. Humans are by nature a very brutal species-- religions are important institutions which can ameliorate this brutishness. If the belief that we are the reason for the existence of the Universe implies that we are constantly being watched by a vengeful God keeps portions of humanity from killing each other then I'm all for it.

Re:POV-Ray PLuto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683853)

Please tell me this link is a joke... some horrible Austin Powers cracker replaced the real Pluto with the disco ball from Polly Esthers? otherwise I am embarassed by and disgusted with NASA's incompetence. Calling that homogeneous blob a "map" of Pluto and Charon's surfaces? and then disguising it as "educational" material? Someone should be beaten with a $30M NASA stick. And we're trusting them to take mankind to Mars... ?

Agreed (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683858)

The Drake equation depends in one key portion on the number of earth-size planets out there.
The more accurate a count, the better we can figure out the probabilities.

SETI would receive far more funding, for example, if we had evidence of pure oxygen (although it's possible that that isn't necessary) in the atmosphere of planets orbiting 50% of all stars.

O2 has a hard time existing on it's own, being so reactive and all...

But still, even if we knew earth-size planets were common, SETI would be a much higher priority.

Are we alone? (2)

Mur! (19589) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683859)

A lot of people are debating the whole 'of course there are planes out there, we can't be the only one' arguement. But look at it statistically - If we assume that the universe can be represented by a bell curve (no, I'm not going to get into new-fangled 'natural' statistical curves here), then the solar system could, probability-wise, fall anywhere inside that curve (from our starting sample size of 1, we have no reference where to place ourselves).

So we start looking at the universe. We find a lot of stars, but none with obvious planets. Instead of consigning the Solar System to one of the tail ends of the bell curve, we assume we don't have equipment sensitive enough to detect planets yet (which we didn't.)

So we design better equipment. We start finding some (a few) Gas giants orbiting stars. And we go, "Ah-hah! See, we're not alone! We must fall somewhere within the center of the normal curve!" Yet still the sample size is small compared to the number of stars - which would really shove 'stars with Gas Giants' to outside one or two standard deviations, and 'stars with earth-sized planets' even further out, with a single sample we know of.

Now we find a (possible) star with another earth-type planet (Class M? Class L? When are scientists going to look up the Star Trek regs and tell us what Class Mars is?), and we say, "We are definately not unique." But look at the statistics - even with *2* systems with earth-sized planets, your sample is *miniscule* compared to the billions of stars! We could very well be in the extreme tail of the bell curve, and actually *be* unique in the universe!

Until SETI produces results, or an alien shows up on Prime Time TV during the President's State of the Union address, I don't think anyone will be able to say for sure that we are not alone. I, for one, believe that we cannot be - I cannot concieve of such a lonely universe. But we really don't have any proof to the contrary. yet. So, while this is very important, don't loose perpective on what it really means about our place in the universe.

Re:seeing is believing (0)

bassfantasizer (83774) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683860)

Will someone please check that the original poster is taking all of her/his medication?

Let's see if I can make sense of this:

You sit up nights watching pretty color pictures on the Weather Channel that are really what a sensor detected as infrared or water vapor.

You pay your speeding tickets because some cop with too much electronics at his disposal told you that you were going to fast.

You plod merrily along as ILS systems land more than a million planes a year.

And you'll believe that planets exist in other solar systems as soon as someone floats a lens with anchors in Madagascar and the Sea of Tranquility.

If I were you, I'd seriously reconsider breathing between now and then.


Re:Earth-like? But how much? (1)

wanderingwalrus (85361) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683861)

It kinda depends what you mean by Earth-like really... It's very very likely that there's no sprawling civlization with Ion cannons and there's unlikely to be even any real life. Really all this tells us is that there is a planet which is a bit like ours(& mars) and by the assumption that what we actually see is not very much at all, you can kinda deduce that there's plenty more planets like Earth & mars & we should keep looking

And also planets don't change an awful lot in a coupla million years. The species may be completely different and the continents may not be the same, but the potential for it to support life would remain pretty much unchanged.

Re:Common senses - heavy objects fall faster (1)

draco ni (42765) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683862)

Uhhh.... no.

Acceleration due to gravity has nothing at all to do with the mass of the falling object, only with the mass of the attractor.
Read up on your physics. [mines.edu]

(for your curiosity: G = 6.6725985 x 10^-11 Nm^2/kg^2 )

Re:But how far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683863)

Of course, the time required to get there form the point of view of the travellers doesn't have to be greater (in years) than the number light-years distance between us and the remote planet. Hell, if you accelerate at one G for about a year, you're up to a substantial fraction of the speed of light, and then time dialation makes everything seem shorter.

Re:Anyone ? (1)

ed_the_unready (5193) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683864)

Only if all the kernel authors would get together and re-release Linux under the GPL (Generic Planet License). Maybe if the planet has a few moons, it would make a neat Beowulf...


---------------------
the SlashDot spellchecker:

Re:Colonisable? WTF? (2)

jflynn (61543) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683865)

"Why the hell do you want to colonise everything? Isn't it a better idea to stop polluting our own planet? Stop wasting its resources so rapidly?"

With that attitude we'd all still be on one continent. Not that I don't agree that pollution and resource depletion are serious problems.

One good and time tested way to stop using resources here is to get them somewhere else. It doesn't look like anyone else is too interested in the asteroids at the moment, perhaps we can be permitted to use some of them? Maybe even start some space colonies to support that activity?

It's likely going to be a long time before we're capable of even near interstellar voyages, let alone colonization missions. Perhaps we'll even have better ethics about destructive exploitation by then.

Not the first Earth-sized planets, either (3)

J05H (5625) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683866)

Just the first one found around a main sequence or nearly-main sequence star.
In 1989, three Earth sized (well, one is Mars sized, but close enough) planets were discovered
orbitting a pulsar. They are obviously dead planets, like their star, but they always fail
to be mentioned, especially in the mainstream media. Anyway, check out the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia [obspm.fr] for more info on all of this.

Re:Colonisable? WTF? (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683867)

We're a life form. Colonization of available habitats is what life forms do. All life forms (or else they go extinct). Biological imperative.

Our adaptability and technology just makes more habitats available to us.

Re:Couple of clarifications (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683868)

&gt We could be the fluke of the universe.How likely is that? out of the 300 billion stars or so, (give or take a few billion) that our planet would be the only one? Come on... i'm not blaming you for this view, cause many people have it.. our society has it. It goes back to my point about religious arrogance. It has nothing to do with arrogance; it's scientific rigor. It's not unreasonable to expect rocky planets to exist in other solar systems, but a scientist cannot just ass/u/me it. Making assumptions about the universe, based on a sample size of one solar system -- now that would be arrogance. Making guesses and then confirming them with observations is science.
---
Have a Sloppy day!

Re:Couple of clarifications (1)

ushirageri (80820) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683869)

To kinda state the obvious, all of our assumptions are based on what "we", as humans know. A good example is just several hundred years ago, all mankind knew the Earth was flat and the Sun revolved around it. We now know this to be totally inaccurate. Are we so arrogate as to assume that our limited scientific knowledge is the be all, end all in astophysics? Just because life on Earth is Carbon based, this doesn't mean that life elsewhere is. It is the unweilding, unable to change nature in biological entities that cause their extinction.

That's my rant. Tht's better than kicking the dog.

I feel better know.

Re:Common sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683870)

Dogma isn't limited to the Church, for instance scientist laughed at the idea the 'rocks could fall from the sky' (i.e. meteorites) and this was a mere two hundred years ago! There are plenty of other instances of dogma in science today as well.

Re:That's a relief (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683871)

Until we get plasma cannons and class IV shields, I hope the Drake equation gives us a very low number. Of course maybe I've been playing too much moo2... Those pesky silicoids.

Really, though, what would you do if your seti-at-home found a message, and it was "All battle groups. Final assembly to begin around Sol IV for immediate assault on Sol III. Prepare the landing pods, this planet is undefended."? I guess pray. NASA won't be much help, i promis eyou that...

Re:Not the first Earth-sized planets, either (1)

bjcbjc (64825) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683873)

The pulsar planet system you refer to was also the first example of extra-solar planets of any kind, not to mention the first multiple system. There are rumors of other pulsar planets but I am not aware of other published evidence.

Re:Are we alone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683878)

Until SETI produces results, or an alien shows up on Prime Time TV during the President's State of the Union address, I don't think anyone will be able to say for sure that we are not alone.

You fool! An alien always shows up on Prime Time TV during the President's State of the Union address! I mean, they can't broadcast the speech without showing the President speaking, can they? So there you are! We are not alone. Happy?

Re:Common sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683879)

Who cares what Erastothenes calculated. The fact remains that most people still believe the earth was flat for centuries, because so many people choose to believe in "the obvious" based on their biased senses, rather than accept science.

intersellar highway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683880)

well, if that is the case, you can bet i'll have my towel ready! =) (har har har)

the real question is... (0)

Haven (34895) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683881)

does this new planet run Linux? Who is porting it to linux PPC? Is there a beowulf possibility? BTW this is a joke so please no -1, troll

Re:Common senses - heavy objects fall faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683882)

Uhh... No. Ever since Galileo we've known very well that heavy objects does in fact not fall faster in a vacuum. Your argument is silly, since wind resistance was exactly one of the important reasons why it was believed that the mass impacted acceleration. The typical experiment would be for instance a feather and a ball of lead. Of course the feather falls slower... But not because of mass.

Re:Common sense (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683883)

'People' believed that they were told by those they considered authoritative, ie the church. Chances are if you wandered up to an 18th century peasant and asked what shape the Earth was, you'd get a blank look or be locked up as a loony.
Scientists -- people who made predictions based on the available data -- would come to various conclusions, not all of which were 'the earth is flat'.
Having said that, your point is valid; the reason a lot of people have problems with such subjects as Relativity is that they've no experience of time dilation; it therefore seems counter-intuitive.

Re:There is no planet there. (0)

ushirageri (80820) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683886)

Gezz...It sounds like your underwear is entirely too tight! Save the whales, nuke the establishment, burn your bra ,big brother is watching you....

Pretty spooky stuff.

Call for alien blood. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683888)

Those fuckers have a lot of nerve hiding from us this long, but I always knew they'd slip up. Forgot about that weensie little gravity lens, eh, you bug-eyed bastards?

Well, I say we lose no time in assembling an attack fleet. Let's end this once and for all.

further discoveries (0)

Haven (34895) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683889)

Upon closer inspection of the planet scientists have found that the planet is actually owned by Nokia and it is a television, web browser, and cell phone. Americans can't see it because they are inferior when it comes to television technology.


And yes... for all you out there it does run linux

Re:Common sense (1)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683897)

There is also the issue of how common are planets.
I would guess that people always assumed that *SOMEWHERE* there were other planets. But they seem to be a common thing. That is exciting.

Re:Anyone ? (1)

Szoup (61508) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683899)

Unfortunately for all the little planet discussed in this story will reveal itself to be the true home of Steve Jobs. Hence, a Macintosh planet or oMac (for orbiting Mac).

Re:Anyone ? (1)

PimpBot (32046) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683900)

wait a sec...shouldn't it be called iPlanet? Or is that name already taken? ;-)
--------------------------

Re:Common sense (1)

Lonesmurf (88531) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683901)

That has got to be the silliest thing that i have ever heard argued in my entire life. It's so akin to:

"Gosh, i can't see past the horizon.. so the earth must end there."

That it makes me want to laugh.

There are NINE planets in out solar system. Somewhere around 5000 stars visible to the naked eye (and literally countless others that we use sensitive instruments to detect). I'm simply stating the obvious fact that there has to be at least some planets orbiting some of those stars out there.
--

Hey wait a minute!! (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683902)

Maybe it's not gravity lensing, maybe it's gravity mirroring and we're looking at ourselves! The universe is curved.

The only problem with looking for RF signals.... (2)

mattz (82905) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683903)

...is that the statistical probability of the planets we found has life is way too low, as well as the probability of that life being intelligent, and the probability that It has found how to generate RF signals of a reasonable strength...
p(find rf)= p(life) X p(intelligence) X p(rf technology) X p(emmission frequency)
probably like ~1x10^-6 for each term, which gives us like p(find rf) ~ 1x10^24 for each rock. Not good odds if you ask me.

But how far? (1)

kieran (20691) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683904)

From the article, it's clear that the planet hasn't actually been seen, just inferred from
examinination of the "light-curve" of a star seen better through the gravitational lens affect.

Fun stuff.

I was dissapointed, though, that the article missed any mention of just how far away this new
planet is, and perhaps how far it would take to reach it using conventional space travel. Or
better still, how likely it is to be Earth-like in ways that might make it colonisable if we were
ever able to reach it...

Then again, perhaps I should knock off reading sci-fi for a few days :)

Re:The only problem with looking for RF signals... (2)

mattz (82905) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683905)

i mean p(find rf) ~ 1x10^-24.....sorry 8)

Re:That's a relief (1)

BugMaster ChuckyD (18439) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683906)

While the gamma-ray hypothosis is interesting, it needs alot of further investigation before we should start to divide the Drake Equation by 1000. There's an awful lot we still don't know about planetary formation and this is just one explanation so we shouldn't jump to conclusions.

Given the extraordinary pictures the Hubble Space Telescope has porduced of stella formation and protoplanetary discs, I for one would love to see a next generation Space telescope with an order of magnitutde greater power put into orbit which might give us some more data to explain the planetary foramtion process.

Of course with the GOP trying to kill NASA's science research budget there's not much chance of this happening.

Re:Common sense (1)

nfgaida (68606) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683907)

>by definition there are no intra-faith conflicts

That's because those that go against their own faith are labeled as heretics, etc. How the faith deals with them can be at times very Not Nice (TM)

>Humans are by nature a very brutal species-- religions are important institutions which can ameliorate this brutishness

true. humans are brutal. however, education is far better at making people play nice than forcing them to because their "god" told them too. Education lets them see that there are better ways to do things (they choose their path), whereas religion forces you along it's "chosen" path.

Plus, (and this applies mainly to the catholic religion) many religions make one of their founding points "humans are evil, you are evil" not a good thing for self esteem..

Re:Are we alone? (1)

bassfantasizer (83774) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683908)

If you want to solve something with statistics, solve something that's determinable.

Tackling your problem, start with the known facts, and a bit of logic:

* Every physical object in the universe is composed of atoms, and an atom of hydrogen here on earth is just like an atom of hydrogen in any star in the universe.

* The very act of being a star brings about changes whereby the star is eventually reduced to heavier elements, mostly iron.

* Solar systems are created when enough matter condenses to form a star and satellites.

With these facts established, we extrapolate that the the life-cycle of solar systems are similar. They form, are comprised of the same elements, and fade toward the same end.

The two major variables are the balance (proportions) of the elements, and temperature.

Are we unique in the universe? Absolutely. But only in the sense that life evolves. The life on this planet today is unique with respect to any other day. Different people, difference plants, different animals, different species, etc...

When the elements blend with the right balance and a suitable temperature, there will be life.


Re:Couple of clarifications (1)

xxyyxxzz (87887) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683909)

Just to play devil's advocate here, but why couldn't this Solar System be the anomaly? Granted, on a bell curve we have a statistical likelihood to be in the middle, but that does not rule out the possibility that we might be at one of the extremes - even one percent of 300,000,000,000 stars (your number) is still a lot of stars.

Re:now what we need... (1)

orabidoo (9806) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683910)

not to mention the name. how can we even talk of a planet if we don't know its name?

Re:Earth-like? But how much? (1)

xxyyxxzz (87887) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683911)

Of course, that's assuming that the planet's creation, life, whatever, are happening on the same timeline as Earth's. However, us humans have been playing around with technology and stuff for only about 6000 years. Not a lot of time in a discipline that can be off by a billion or more. seeing as stars are of all different ages, some planets out there could have a billion years or more of evolution over us, which lends itself (hopefully) to some fantastic discoveries on their part.

Re:Distant planets (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683913)

It isn't a picture of the planet. It might be a picture of the star, or it might be a stock photo. Gravitational microlensing events have been observed for several years now, and none of them are considered confirmed discoveries of planets. This one, by being repeatable -may- be. But until other teams confirm it, it may be just another jumping of the gun

Re:Lensing (2)

Jburkholder (28127) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683915)

Hmm, the 5-second explanation on CNN last night showed an animation where the detection involved the eclipsing of the star by the planet. So if this is right, they didn't detect the light reflecting off the planet, they detected the obscuring of the star as the planet orbits.

freak occurance (3)

technos (73414) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683916)

Finding planets this way is a really haphazard way of doing it. Stars rarely line up well enough to make gravitational lensing really viable as a method of detecting another planet. Another method they've been using is watching the Doppler shift of a selected star. Any star with an object revolving around it exibits a regular 'wobble' in the shift. Make a guess at the mass of the star, apply some centuries old math to it, and voila! You know how many objects are orbiting the star, how massive they are and how far away from the star!.

Re:There is no planet there. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683918)

I is from Kansus. Ain't no evulusion goin on in Kansus, I's just told my cousin-wife, "Don't be learnin' none of the childrin no evolusion shit 'cause the Bible don't say it's true." This guy is preachin it like we's do in Kansus!

Re:Common sense (1)

schporto (20516) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683926)

I see one fatal error in your argument. You assume people have common sense :)
Seriously though there has been a strong debate of weather there are other planets. That got settled when we found a gas giant. This is the first planet found that could support "life as we know it". The theory being that Redneck Bob would never believe there's life in a gas giant, but a rock that looks liek Earth hurm maybe. Think how long people thought there was life on Mars, oh oh maybe Venus. Only to be proven (possibly) wrong. Meanwhile there were very few people saying oh maybe life on Jupiter and those tended to be scientists.
-cpd

Re:Hey wait a minute!! (1)

rde (17364) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683927)

Maybe it's not gravity lensing, maybe it's gravity mirroring and we're looking at ourselves! The universe is curved.
It's possible, I suppose. Does anyone know if this planet has a Russian space station orbiting it?

Re:now what we need... (2)

cemerson (21094) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683928)

and an even better question, is anyone pointing radio telescopes at these flying rocks?

If you look at the picture at the top of the BBC article, you'll see that it isn't from an optical telescope. I would bet that they _did_ use radio telescopes rather than X-ray, IR, etc., particularly as the observatories are on Earth (Australia and New Zealand) rather than in orbit.

Re:Common sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683929)

Look... something being "obvious" may suit you fine, but it doesn't suit science fine. Our technological acomplishments are due to years of studying the "obvious". For many years people like you thought it was "obvious" that heavy objects fell faster than lighter ones.

Re:But how far? (1)

x24 (81159) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683930)

I was wondering how long it would take the inhabitants of the planet to get here (assuming there are any, I find it kind of arrogant to think we're alone)

seeing is believing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683931)


nice, but i'm holding my breath
for the first direct sighting
rather than a planet's existence being
inferred from quirky orbits or irregular
illumination. it seems to me like there's
a big difference between the two --
what do you all think?

Lensing (1)

_Gnubie_ (14485) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683932)

The artical was very sparse on the lensing effect. As I understood it lensing occurred with very high masses, typically black holes. In fact this is one of the methods used to try and detect black-holes. How does this work with a non-dark object? Surely the light of the star would block out the tiny amount of light reflected off a planet from its sun?.

Re:Common sense (3)

AleT (51575) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683933)

It's not silly. It's a perfectly valid point.

Astronomy is a science where you can not repeat
your experiment (the universe). Whenever you
get a result, in this case the result is that
we live on a planet, you have to spend a long
time considering any possible biases. The fact
that we'd be dead if we weren't on a planet is
a pretty big bias towards finding ourselves on
one, even if it's the only planet in the universe.

As for it being pretty obvious that there are
other planets out there, 1000 years ago it was
pretty obvious that the earth was flat.

Ale.

Re:Distant planets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683934)

Hehehe... millennia for other people ;-) Sorry, couldn't resist...

Re:Common sense (1)

itp (6424) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683935)

No, this argument is incorrect!

Look; our very existense depends on the conditions of our solar system (at least we believe so). So, assume for the moment that there is only one viable solar system in the Universe. It immediately follows that, if we exist to observe the Universe, we must live in that solar system. This in no way implies the ``obvious'' existance of other solar systems.

In short, your obvious fact is wrong.

--
Ian Peters

Re:Anyone ? (1)

Jburkholder (28127) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683946)

Ohh, and if it does it would make a sweeeet beowulf cluster. (ok, I got it out of my system for the day, go ahead and moderate this to hell.) =)

Re:But how far? (1)

AleT (51575) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683947)

I think it's even more arrogant to assume any
life out there would want to come here!

Ale.

Re:The only problem with looking for RF signals... (1)

cemerson (21094) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683948)

...is that the statistical probability of the planets we found has life is way too low, as well as the probability of that life being intelligent, and the probability that It has found how to generate RF signals of a reasonable strength...

...is fairly irrelevant as far as pointing radio telescopes at them. After all, what's the chance of them having build an optical laser powerful enough to be seen on Earth? Pretty negligible.
In any case, it's the start they're looking at from this distance rather than the planet itself.

Re:Lensing (2)

AleT (51575) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683949)

Lensing occurs with any mass of object. The size
of the effect depends on the mass of the lens, and
on its position. Lensing has been observed around
the sun, which is not very massive.

In this case, they were looking for the
distinctive brightening of the light from a star
which would occur if some object like a dead star
or jupiter sized planet passed exactly infront
of a background star. From studying the number
of such events, you can calculate the amount of
mass in our galaxy made up of such `dark' objects.

What they found is that one of their light curves
didn't match the theoretical curve. Unfortunately
the experiment is essentially not repeatable, as
you'd have to wait for something else to pass
in front of that star, which could be thousands of years.

Ale.

Re:That's a relief (2)

Suydam (881) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683950)

This would be a huge dissapointment! ...but if you think about some of it, it does make good sense. I'm only an amateur astronomer/physicist (if you can even call me that) and I've always wondered how the rocky planets came together.

Moderation alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1683951)

Ho. Ho. Ho. "Does it run linux?"

Does it get any funnier? This is killing me.

Re:Lensing (1)

BitPoet (40070) | more than 14 years ago | (#1683952)

Lensing occours because of gravity. (duh) Light has mass, not much, but some, so any sufficently massive object can bend light perceptibly.

So, in theory, everything, including Pamela Anderson's old breasts, bend light.

Once you've wrapped your brain around that, imagine what happens when there is a massive object between a light source and the point of observation. Black holes do have a large lens effect, but so do suns (iirc, lensing was proved during a solar eclipse), planets, taco bell burritos...

BitPoet
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