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New Telescope Hunts for Earth Sized Planets

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the do-you-see-what-i-see dept.

Space 104

TENxOXR writes "The French-led Corot mission has taken off from Kazakhstan on a quest to find planets outside our Solar System. The space telescope will monitor about 120,000 stars for tiny dips in brightness that result from planets passing across their faces. The multinational mission will also study the stars directly to uncover more about their interior behavior."

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It's too easy (1, Funny)

Kenrod (188428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17378778)

Borat joke in 5...4...3...2...1

Re:It's too easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17378794)

I hope you likes!

Re:It's too easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379078)

very nice!

Re:It's too easy (4, Funny)

Hubertus_BigenD (877546) | more than 7 years ago | (#17378838)

The rocket used a new experimental fuel consisting of a blend of Human pubic hair and Gypsy tears.

Re:It's too easy (1)

grimJester (890090) | more than 7 years ago | (#17382848)

I would launched earlier, but my wife, you see, not grow hair fast.

(gestures toward crotch for half a minute)

She thirteen.

The telescope is called...... (2, Funny)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17378878)

.....Interstellar Learnings of The Univers for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Re:The telescope is called...... (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 7 years ago | (#17381090)

Actually this is just phase one. But, without the French-led Corot mission leading the way, how are you going to get the donkey in to orbit? Sticks don't always do it you know.

Planets or Plants? (2, Funny)

tbcpp (797625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17378946)

I really need to lay off the coffee or something, 'cause I read "looking for Earth sized Plants". I thought "Dude! that's one big plant". Okay, back to work now...

Re:Planets or Plants? (1)

Kris_B_04 (883011) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380568)

I'm glad I'm not the only one...
Perhaps there was too much "egg nog" over the weekend.. *grin*

Duck season - Wabbit Season (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17378964)

Pwanet season!

Kill the pwanet kill the pwanet!

Shhh, be wery wery quiet.

Hehehehehe

A time-saving tip (3, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17378990)

They shouldn't bother looking for any Pluto-sized planets - there aren't any.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

bndnchrs (1044108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379030)

I am assuming that is a joke, correct? THere are many pluto-sized planets, even in our own solar system. Thats why Pluto was demoted as a planet. Though the odds of us seeing a planet of Pluto's size are relatively slim considering the fact that against all the background of space, a small object such as that might not stick out, there are infinitely many Pluto-sized objects out there.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

bndnchrs (1044108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379090)

*groan*, yeah I get it now, im dumb. cute.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379048)

Duh ;)

And even if they were still defined as planets, I wouldn't be too interested in having them wasting efforts in finding those as they'll probably have trouble holding an atmosphere to harbor life anyway. And it's terrestrial planets I'm personally most interested in here. Actually, this kind of space science is what I find most interesting at the moment, given what we can do.

Re:A time-saving tip (3, Interesting)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379372)

I wouldn't be too interested in having them wasting efforts in finding those as they'll probably have trouble holding an atmosphere to harbor life anyway.


This kind of reasoning is ubiquitous, but it always bothers me. We only know of one kind of life (terrestrial life), but even that kind of life doesn't require a gaseous atmosphere. Only certain terrestrial species require an atmosphere. Even those species, such as mammals, reptiles, and birds, only require an atmosphere after birth, and get along just fine without it up until then. So on the one hand, assuming that all life is very similar to terrestrial life, I find nothing to suggest that an atmosphere is vital. But on the other hand, seeing that we only have knowledge of terrestrial life, extrapolating at all from that knowledge to the supposed "requirements for life" is not reasonable.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

ReptilianSamurai (1042564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379464)

Although, besides breathing purposes, our atmosphere also protects us from harmful radiation from the sun, as well as protecting the planet from impacts from most stellar objects.

Re:A time-saving tip (2, Insightful)

bhiestand (157373) | more than 7 years ago | (#17385982)

Although, besides breathing purposes, our atmosphere also protects us from harmful radiation from the sun, as well as protecting the planet from impacts from most stellar objects.
Right, but what does that have to do with possible requirements for alien life? Certainly life as we know it, based on DNA/RNA, can not generally do well in an environment with excess radiation, but that does not mean that DNA is the only way to code life. Hell, a planet with a much higher concentration of lead, and lead on the surface, could result in creatures with an exoskeleton made of lead (or gold, for that matter).

All of the above scenarios make it possible for life forms to exist on the surface of a planet, but why would we even assume we would find alien life on the surface of a planet, respirating atmosphere? The Earth is literally covered with subterranean and aquatic life. The quantity of aquatic life on Earth dwarfs that of us surface-dwellers.

I would be extremely disappointed to discover alien life forms and realize they functioned in nearly the same way as those found on Earth.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

ReptilianSamurai (1042564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386034)

I agree that life would evolve very differently on other worlds in such ways as to adapt to the conditions of the world.

Although without an atmosphere I'd be surprised if more than simple microbial lifeforms developed.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379658)

No atmosphere == no liquid water.

In fact, no atmosphere == no liquid anything.

Re:A time-saving tip (2, Informative)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380104)

No atmosphere == no liquid water.

In fact, no atmosphere == no liquid anything.

That's a good point, but it only applies to surface liquids. Now, I suppose that if there is literally *no* atmosphere, then over time you will lose whatever gas/liquid resources you start with. But as a matter of organism survival, any solid planet with geological processes is going have plenty of opportunity for subterranean liquid and gas.

Re:A time-saving tip (2, Insightful)

THE anonymus coward (92468) | more than 7 years ago | (#17381660)

Europa is an example of something that has no atmosphere, but does have liquid water under the ice. You're right to think that there has to be something to contain the liquid, so that it doesn't boil off into space, but solid works just as well as gas for that task.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

DinZy (513280) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380630)

Of course mammals require an atmosphere while in the womb, the mothers must respirate. Besides that physics, ie liquid/vapor/vacuum/solid equilibrium all but requires an atmosphere to have any chance at sustaining life. Stable temperature is not possible in a vacuum unless it is constantly being illuminated by a sun, ie if the planet does not rotate. In that case though the hot side of the planet would be very inhospitable to weak organic molecules. Sure you could argue that an ice world with very little atmosphere could harbor life in some deep buried ocean but they would need to have some energetic process such as volcanism or some sustainable energetic process from which to exploit. But apart from some special case of buried oases, life needs an atmosphere if it is going to be composed of small molecules, many of which would simply evaporate in a vacuum. Perhaps though life could evolve on a planet with an atmosphere and then evolve to survive without one as a planet slowly lost it's atmosphere, but that again seems unlikely.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380920)

If a planet has an atmosphere, it's possible that life on that planet will cause it to be in a non-equilibrium state (chemically speaking). This is something that would not be too hard to detect from earth (i.e. lots of oxygen in an atmosphere won't last long w/out life). Our efforts should therefore be focussed on what we can, in principle, detect.

Could silicon-based life inhabit the lithosphere of a planet? Maybe so. Could there be life deep inside stellar cores or gas giants? Why not? But we don't know how to detect these kinds of things (unless they make a huge change in the structure of their environment). We're best off looking for signs of life that we understand and can identify at a large distance, rather than observations that could be easily explained without invoking life.

Re:A time-saving tip (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17381270)

If a planet has an atmosphere, it's possible that life on that planet will cause it to be in a non-equilibrium state (chemically speaking). This is something that would not be too hard to detect from earth (i.e. lots of oxygen in an atmosphere won't last long w/out life). Our efforts should therefore be focussed on what we can, in principle, detect.

This is the thinking that led James Lovelock [wikipedia.org] to formulate his Gaia Hypothesis [wikipedia.org] . His basic premise is that you can discover life on a planet without going there simply by looking at the composition of the atmosphere.

From the Wikipedia article:
Since life started on Earth, the energy provided by the Sun has increased by 25% to 30%; however the surface temperature of the planet has remained remarkably constant when measured on a global scale. Furthermore, he argued, the atmospheric composition of the Earth is constant. The Earth's atmosphere currently consists of 79% nitrogen, 20.7% oxygen and 0.03% carbon dioxide. Oxygen is the second most reactive element after fluorine, and should combine with gases and minerals of the Earth's atomosphere and crust. Traces of methane (at an amount of 100,000 tonnes produced per annum), should not exist, as methane is combustible in an oxygen atmosphere. This composition should be unstable, and its stability can only have been maintained with removal or production by living organisms.

It's a doomsday machine, call Capt. Kirk!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17378992)

The media headlines say we have launched a "planet hunter." Does anyone else find that phrasing just a little bit creepy?

All Earth-sized planets are fair game!

Nice surprise! (2, Interesting)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379010)

I wasn't aware of this mission at all, and was just sitting here waiting for the James Webb Telescope, the Terrestrial Planet Finder observatories, or the Kepler mission.
Btw, of those, NASA's Kepler telescope is the earliest from the space agency, scheduled for launch in October 2008.

Re:Nice surprise! (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379086)

Oh oh, I knew there was at least one more -- ESA's Darwin project. It's possible NASA's TPF and ESA's Darwin project will end up as a collaboration though, given the similarities in goals. I wouldn't be against that; better put your money bags together to make something awesome than do separate half-assed jobs. ;-)

Obligatory surrender joke... (-1, Troll)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379058)

Will the French surrender to the new planets they will discover?

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379254)

and the USA version.

Will the US try to invade the planets the french discover?

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (-1, Offtopic)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379632)

and the USA version.

Will the US try to invade the planets the french discover?


      Wait wait you missed a part:

      Will the US try to invade the planet, fail, run away, and then deny it was interested in the planet in the first place?

      There, all fixed...

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (1)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17381876)

I love France, I have lived in the country and have tons of friends there. French cuisine and wine is the best in the world and the women are goddesses.

And I can't make a joke without being called names :)

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (0, Flamebait)

sensi_fr (903918) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379448)

Nothing oblige you to be pitifully as ignorant as xenophobe.
FYI, the french loss three time more soldiers than the USA while fighting the germans in the past century, while the USA were three time more populated at that time.
Oh, and the whole Europe were pwned by the Nazis, no doubt that yours would have been too if it was in this area at that time...
In short keep your pathetic "jokes" for your imaginary friends from your cave.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualtie s [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualti es [wikipedia.org]

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (1)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379656)

Ya idiots have excellent knee jerk reactions. If it were not for tired old jokes the stupid would have no sense of humor at all. One of my favorite tag lines is the quote of a French commander during WW1 "My center is giving way, my right is in retreat, situation excellent! I shall attack"

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17381386)

"Mon centre cède, impossible de me mouvoir, situation excellente, j'attaque."
That guy also said, "Airplanes are interesting toys, but of no military value."
 
Don't forget this from the same month but different battle:
"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold."
1stLt. Clifton B. Cates, USMC
in Belleau Wood, 19 July 1918.
 
Cates eventually became Commandant of the Marine Corps.
 
Semper Fi!

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379752)

FYI, the french loss three time more soldiers than the USA while fighting the germans in the past century

That's because the USA figured out that the job of a soldier isn't to die for his country. The job of a soldier is to make the other guy die for his country.

Are all frogs as stupid as you?

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (1)

Ravenseye (146453) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380520)

Are all frogs as stupid as you?

Spoken like a true Anonymous Coward. You make yourself irrelevant.

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (1)

Dasher42 (514179) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380198)

You tell them. People who actually find that crap funny are an embarrassment. Some of us study our history and know that nobody was ready for the blitzkrieg in 1940.

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (1)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17381426)

I think the Polish were.

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (0, Flamebait)

E++99 (880734) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380306)

Oh, and the whole Europe were pwned by the Nazis, no doubt that yours would have been too if it was in this area at that time...


We were in the area at the time... liberating your miserable ungreatful butts. Well at least you're spreading the good will by helping to liberate and Iraq. Oh, wait, you're not. You first argued for appeasing Saddam, and now that the Iraqis are going to hang Saddam, you're arguing for appeasing Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda, meanwhile, is not even ASKING for appeasement, like Hitler did. They're just trying to incite large-scale war at any price. In short, I think the jokes are entirely appropriate.

Re:Obligatory surrender joke... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17382682)

"Nothing oblige you to be pitifully as ignorant as xenophobe."

a.) It was a joke.
b.) Lots of stereotypical comments are made about Americans on a daily basis.

Either develop a sense of humor or practice what you preach.

Russia is thriving... (4, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379172)

When it comes to space launches, no nation beats Russia on cost, reliability and efficiency. One thing still bothers me...why haven't the US or EU nations been successful on this front? There are huge sums of money to be made but the Russians still beat us (the USA) in this game. Why?

Re:Russia is thriving... (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379232)

The EU nations not successful? The Corot is an ESA mission!

Re:Russia is thriving... (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379310)

The EU nations not successful? The Corot is an ESA mission!

That isn't in dispute. What I wanted to put across is the fact that when it comes to putting equipment into space, no body beats the Russians. In fact, the COROT has been put into space using RUSSIAN hardware.

Re:Russia is thriving... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379586)

To my knowledge the ESA holds the larger part of the commercial space launch market. Why they didn't launch corot with ESA I don't know, perhaps they lack capacity?

Re:Russia is thriving... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379688)

It's probably far cheaper to launch the payload with a Soviet ICBM rocket than any ESA launcher.

Re:Russia is thriving... (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17385606)

Idiot, it was a soyuz/fregat, not an ICBM.

Re:Russia is thriving... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379442)

True regarding cost, as Russia are reusing a lot of old ICBMs to launch sattelites. The reliability has however gone down and is now not so good any more mostly because these are now old ICBMs.

60's tech, experience, and low wages (2, Insightful)

erice (13380) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379682)

It's a bit like outsourcing manufacturing to China except there is no learning curve. The Russians already have the expertise and infrastructure built in the Soviet era.

Sure, the Americans and Europeans have better technology but it isn't being used. The rockets that are flying are still 60's tech, mostly military derivations at at that. Maybe when SpaceShipThree and it's counterparts start getting into the game, it will be different. For now, no one does 60's space tech better than the Russians.

Re:60's tech, experience, and low wages (4, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380080)

Sure, the Americans and Europeans have better technology but it isn't being used.

Sure? So you think that the Americans and Europeans have better tech? I personally, I'm not sure. What I know is that we Americans kind-of blow our own trumpets, which is sad. The Russians on the other hand, just do their thing. Remember when they were the ONLY link to the ISS? They did not blow their trumpets one bit. If it were the Americans it would be a different story.

They still have the biggest and heaviest airplane ever developed - even bigger than the A380, and this was almost 2 decades ago! . No body mentions this! In fact, I thought the Europeans were gonna borrow the design of the A380 from them. Apparently we only seem to thrive at complexity.

The rockets that are flying are still 60's tech, mostly military derivations at at that.

Ahh, so what has our 21st century tech achieved? Nothing! It appears to be a beacon of corruption, nepotism and bigotry. You probably would not even appreciate the fact that the ISS would be a failure if the Russians were not involved.

Re:60's tech, experience, and low wages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17382936)

Yeah, tell me about the russian supercolliders, or the multitudes of experiments all over the solar system, or the rovers on mars, or the.... fucking INTERNET.

Umm, the ISS WAS almost a failure, BECAUSE of the russians. Their docking module was way late, way more expensive then they quoted and didn't integrate all that well. It almost killed the funding for the ISS because of the overcosts and redesigning involved.

Tell us about the russian made microprocessors that power huge supercomputers searching gene databases, or their huge efforts in weather prediction, or their medical advances. Tell us about their new discoveries in nanotech or astrophysics. Tell us about their communications satellites. Tell us about their new treatments for cancer or powerful HIV treatments.

Show us a TOP500 computer system in russia.

We're waiting.....
   

Re:60's tech, experience, and low wages (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17383242)

As I said, these Russians hardly blow their own trumpets. Americans are consumed with consumerism. Tetris, a Russian invention, never got all the publicity it got till the Americans got involved. We Americans are good at publicity.

If Russian tech is so backward, why is it that when they make a sale to the so called rogue states, our state department screams! Here's why: We in most cases, have no answer to such equipment.

These very deadly weapons cannot have been created by a backward nation. They solely built the MIR space station, which lasted more than 3 times its anticipated life span. We had nothing! We also have our own problems like corruption, nepotism, cronyism and bigotry.

Before I go, I should inform you that my government touted the stealth bomber as the best, most sophisticated aircraft ever built. The Russians said it could be shot down. As usual, our military men brushed them off till one was shot down in the Balkans. Now I hear that that expensive aircraft will be retired as it's not worth the cost. Imagine that!

Re:60's tech, experience, and low wages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17386574)

We also have our own problems like corruption, nepotism, cronyism and bigotry.

The Soviets had their problems too: blat [wikipedia.org] , tolkachi [209.85.135.104] , and poorly calculated plans.

Re:60's tech, experience, and low wages (1)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17383192)

The Russians on the other hand, just do their thing. Remember when they were the ONLY link to the ISS? They did not blow their trumpets one bit. If it were the Americans it would be a different story.
I don't intend to disagree with you, but I'm on an anti-big-media bender at the moment. If, hypothetically, the Russians were blowing their own trumpet, who would tell you about it? CNN? ABC? Fox?

Re:60's tech, experience, and low wages (1)

strikethree (811449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17385680)

"You probably would not even appreciate the fact that the ISS would be a failure if the Russians were not involved."

You do appear to be forgetting that the ISS would not have ever made it up there in the first place without the Americans. Just because the Americans are not perfect, that does not imply that others are better.

strike

Re:60's tech, experience, and low wages (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17383406)

The rockets that are flying are still 60's tech, mostly military derivations at at that.

The rockets flying today are based on/derived from 60's military tech in roughly the same way that a 2006 Corvette is based on/derived from the Corvettes of the 1960's - I.E. only in the vaguest of ways.

Re:Russia is thriving... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379740)

Because we're more interested in conquering other countries than other worlds at the moment. If you discovered oil on the moon, that may be another story.

Recent Russian launch failures (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380318)

When it comes to space launches, no nation beats Russia on cost, reliability and efficiency.
The facts don't support your assertion at all. Russia's has had many recent launch failures. Here is a short list.
  • http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11613181
  • http://www.space.com/news/proton_explainer_99120 6.html
  • http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/060726_dnep r_failure.html
  • http://russianforces.org/blog/2005/06/molniyam_l aunch_failure.shtml
  • http://www.nerc.ac.uk/press/releases/2005/cryosa tlost.asp
US Atlas and Delta have had a string of successes over 10 years. Atlas has had 75 successful launches in a row!
  • http://www.aero.org/news/newsitems/delta9-25-05. html
  • http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=196 40

Europe's Arianne V has has a fine reliability record after 2 early failures.

I suppose Russian launches are cheap. You get what you pay for.

Re:Recent Russian launch failures (4, Informative)

Rolo Tomasi (538414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380866)

Funny you should mention the Atlas, because it's using Russian engines.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_(missile) [wikipedia.org]

Russian engines (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17381274)

The Atlas V does in the first stage. The 70 preceding Atlas II launches used Rocketdyne. Ofcourse Pratt and Whitney manufactures it in Palm Beach. The real business end of the launcher, the Centaur upper stage uses the Pratt and Whitney RL-10A. The Russian equivalent, the Proton Breeze M upper stage, has a wretched reliability record.

Re:Russia is thriving... (1)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380454)

Russians wil works for much less money. Same reason China beats the US when it come to making shoes.

Re:Russia is thriving... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17383382)

When it comes to space launches, no nation beats Russia on cost, reliability and efficiency.

Nor, except on cost, does Russia beat any other nation. Their LOV [loss of vehicle] rate hovers right around 1% - the same as the US and the EU.
 
 
One thing still bothers me...why haven't the US or EU nations been successful on this front? There are huge sums of money to be made but the Russians still beat us (the USA) in this game. Why?

No, there aren't really huge sums of money to be made - as the current launch market is a few dozen a year (in a good year). (I.E. it's an easily saturated market.) To compete in that market, for a return of a few million a launch, costs somewhere in the range of hundreds of millions.

Can we tell how much water is on these planets? (4, Interesting)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379284)

Far as I know, the amount of water on the surface of the Earth is vital to life as we know it. The water keeps the temperature relatively even across the entire globe. This is especially important because it keeps the day side cool and the night side warm.

So say we find Earth sized planets? What's the next step? See how warm they are? If they are a certain temperature (where water is a liquid, a small temperature range in the grand scheme of things) then look a little closer?

TLF

Re:Can we tell how much water is on these planets? (1)

Col. Bloodnok (825749) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379356)

They seem to manage OK on Hoth.

Re:Can we tell how much water is on these planets? (3, Interesting)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379526)

Not sure if we can directly detect water signatures, but scientists can at least estimate the range from their stars, the type of star, and basic atmospheric composition. I guess these could be enough to make an educated guess of their temperature at least.

Here's the news of the first atmospheric measurement by Hubble in 2001, and then keep in mind it's not even specially equipped for these things like these "next gen missions": http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/ 2001/38 [hubblesite.org]

Re:Can we tell how much water is on these planets? (3, Informative)

thue (121682) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379972)

If the Terrestrial Planet Finder [wikipedia.org] or Darwin [wikipedia.org] gets built then we should be able to analyze the planet's atmosphere using passive spectroscopy [wikipedia.org] . This could for example reveal whether the atmosphere contained O2.

The Terrestrial Planet Finder is far more interesting than putting human boots on mars or the moon, IMO. Cheaper too. Unfortunately NASA doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry to built it.

Re:Can we tell how much water is on these planets? (1)

noigmn (929935) | more than 7 years ago | (#17384272)

Never know, it might work the other way. We are at a certain distance from a relatively normal star. At this distance from a similar size star a similar planet composition may occur. If we are going to assume that we are the normal way life exists, we may as well assume that our solar system is a pretty normal one too, seeing we haven't really got much details of planets in others.

Water doesn't seem to be that rare in our solar system. They're suggesting Mars has it but it's frozen. On closer planets it would obviously be steam. The main factor affecting the amount of liquid water on a planet might be temperature. We dont know enough about the processes beyond Earth to know what we are looking for. So they go for Earth sized at similar distance. It seems like a reasonable starting point.

No point in the search (1, Redundant)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379306)

"It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the univese can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole universie is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination."

Re:No point in the search (1)

MollyB (162595) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379452)

I notice that this entire mishmash of faulty syllogisms is enclosed in quotation marks. Could the OP satisfy the curious and reveal whom is being quoted?

If this is a troll, I bit, haul me in...

Re:No point in the search (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379590)

A quick Google search shows this to be from "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" by Douglas Adams.

Re:No point in the search (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380008)

Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide, iirc.

Re:No point in the search (1)

zesty42 (1041348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379664)

very interesting, but stupid.

Re:No point in the search (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 7 years ago | (#17384670)

Douglas Adams carefully ignored the fact that infinity doesn't work like that. Even if 99% of an infinite number of planets are uninhabited, that still leaves an infinite number of planets inhabited. It sounds weird, I know, but there's lots about infinity that's counterintuitive.

Re:No point in the search (0, Flamebait)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17385620)

Because he, unlike you, had a sense of humour.

even if... (3, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379378)

even if a planet was found that could support life we will never be able to get there, at least not until "Faster than light-speed" space travel is possible, will i highly doubt will ever happen...

Re:even if... (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379536)

Precisely, unless they are on an intercept orbit with the Earth,
who cares???

Re:even if... (1)

ReptilianSamurai (1042564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379558)

There's always the much-used-in-sci-fi suspended animation / freezing and then awakening when we get there. Providing the ship computer could be trusted to run flawlessly for the centuries with no human interaction. (Insert obligatory Windows joke here...)

Two words, plus slashdot (3, Insightful)

silentounce (1004459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379784)

Generation ship [wikipedia.org]

Re:even if... (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380868)

If we had a ship that went close to the speed of light, we could get to the stars pretty quickly - in days (for the passengers) if the ship was fast enough.

Re:even if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17382376)

I know this will be hard for you but just do the math, simple Newtonian mecanics, without friction. What it the amount of energy required to accelerate your spaceraft (say you can make it weight only 50 tons) to a significant fraction of the speed of light?

I'm afraid my good friend that we will need more than just a new technology...

Re:even if... (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#17385922)

Days?

Are you sure? The closest star (except Sol) is Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2 light years away from here. This means that light itself takes 4.2 years to cross that distance. So, to get there you need at least 4.2 years at light speed. Slower is invariably going to take longer. Sure, 4.2 years is about 1500 days, so "in days" might be accurate to your definition.

Re:even if... (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386358)

To us here on earth, it takes the light 4.2 years. But to light itself, it takes no time at all.

If we travelled close enough to the speed of light, to people on earth it would appear to take a time approaching 4.2 years. To the people in spaceship, it will take a time approaching zero time.

Re:even if... (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#17386590)

Hmmmm.... Ah, yes, twin paradox [wikipedia.org] . Sorry, I've always been under the impression that those 4.2 years would have been for the light itself. Still, "a matter of days" is still a bit of an overstatement when you look at the wikipedia "Specific Example" ( 0.866 speed of light, which isn't bad at all). I still don't call "2.57 years" a mere "days".

Re:even if... (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387060)

It's not an overstatement since I didn't specify what percentage of the speed of light:

0.9999c gives:
octave:3> 4*365*sqrt(1-0.9999^2)
ans = 20.647 [that's days]
octave:4> 4*365*sqrt(1-0.99999^2)
ans = 6.5293 [days again]

So 99.999% of the speed of light would get you there in 6.5 days. I'd call that "mere days".

Re:even if... (1)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387002)

But to light itself, it takes no time at all.

I have a question about that: In a vacuum it makes sense, but the speed of light is slower in other materials based on their refractive index. Then the time dilation must surely be less than 100%?

Can anyone enlighten me about this?

Re:even if... (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387112)

There's several things going on here.

The first is that the statement " the speed of light is slower in other materials based on their refractive index" is actually misleading. It's more that the light _always_ travels at speed c, but keeps getting absorbed and then re-emitted by atoms. This absorbed-delay-re-emit makes the _average_ speed below c. But at any particular time, the light is travelling at speed c, or is instead converted to kinetic energy in an atom. Thus you don't get any time dilation problems with the light.

Incidently, it is possibly to have something travel faster than the 'apparent' speed of light. In this case you get a kinda sonic boom, but with light ( i.e. a photonic boom).

Re:even if... (1)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387140)

Ah, I see. Thanks a lot!

Re:even if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17386500)

Time dilation [wikipedia.org] .

Re:even if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17380900)

I know where one is (1)

Curate (783077) | more than 7 years ago | (#17379560)

*I* know where an Earth-sized planet is. The suspense is killing me, but I'm not tellin'. I'm just going to let everybody wrack their brains for a while. Seriously, you're all going to kick yourselves when you find out... *chuckle*

Re:I know where one is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17380372)

is it the red one?

French-led Carrots ? Did I read that right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17379712)

Am I the only one that read that as

"French-led Carrots" ??

because somehow, that seems to work better...

This will take Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17380462)

What about Sun Spots, Star Spots of you like.
They are as bigger then the blockage of a little, earth size, planet.
You will have to track the brightness changes over time and hope the planet
croses between the star and us in a regular pattern. Two obersivation od a
simaular change seems to hardly imply a planet. You will need three or more
to even start to be convincing. You will miss most of them that are not tilted
corectly.

anthropomorphism at its best! (1)

acaeus (989603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17380562)

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/A/anthro pomorphism.html [daviddarling.info] It is really scary when scientists *never* think outside the box...

planet searching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17380692)

I saw cmdrtaco's cassini probe orbiting a known black hole near uranus.

FrCost pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17383436)

numbers c0nti0nue

getting too far ahead of ourselves? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17383722)

although it's all very whizz-bang I can't understand how identifying other planets would be for the immediate betterment of humanity if we can't even get to them. Wouldn't it be better to 'pwn' our own solar system first? We've got a whole Kuiper Belt sitting there waiting to be explored and mined for materials but no-one seems to want to know about it (and what a cash-cow when they do!)

maybe i'm missing it, but what's the big-picture goal with this?

Borat says... (1)

aychamo (932587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17387246)

I like planet, I like sex! Is nice!
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