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28 New Planets Found Outside Solar System

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the any-day-now-we're-going-to-here-about-squidgy-things-in-outer-space dept.

Space 258

elkcsr writes "The San Jose Mercury news reports on the phenomenal discovery of 28 new extra-solar planets out there in our galaxy. All of them are outside of the band scientists consider necessary for supporting life as we know it, but the solar systems analyzed should still be quite familiar to those of us in this neck of the woods. System layouts feature small rocky planets towards the star and gas giants further out. The biggest difference seen is a preference for elliptical orbits, instead of generally circular orbit we enjoy. ' For example, the team also described new details about one specific exoplanet, discovered two years ago. This planet, which circles the star Gliese 436, is thought to be half rock, half water. Its rocky core is surrounded by an amount of water compressed into a solid form at high pressures and low temperatures. It makes a short, 2.6-day orbit around Gliese 436. Based on its radius and density, scientists calculate that it has the mass of 22 Earths, making it slightly larger than Neptune. "The profound conclusion is, here we've found yet another type of planet that is already represented in our solar system," Marcy said.'"

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258 comments

Cool (3, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310621)

If FTL travel ever comes about, we can see if there's different materials out there that we're not aware of. Too bad I won't live to see it.

Re:Cool (2, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310897)


Yeah, I'd love to be around for the first shipment of Unobtanium as well.

Re:Cool (1)

HalifaxRage (640242) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310961)

Speak for yourself! I have another 50-60 years (conservatively) ahead of me, and if the movies have taught me anything, it's that by the year 2000 we will all have flying cars and live in cities on the moon!

Re:Cool (5, Insightful)

Aliriza (1094599) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311605)

I have only been to two other countries and has not seen most of the world yet and they are finding new planets.My life is too short and the universe is too big :)

Re:Cool (3, Insightful)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311215)

If FTL travel ever comes about, we can see if there's different materials out there that we're not aware of. Too bad I won't live to see it.

You never know where technology will take us, even in the near future. Some say that we might experience technological singularity [wikipedia.org] within the next 20 years. Then it might be a rather short time until FTL, or at least the ability to prolong one's life/consciousness. Then again, it might also be a rather short time until our extinction.

Re:Cool (0, Troll)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311385)

More importantly , does it run Linux ?

Eat my goatse'd penis! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19310631)

Did Anyone Else? (0, Redundant)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311055)

Did anyone else first read ".. 28 New Patents Found .." ?

Why are... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19310633)

Why are we even LOOKING at other planets when we haven't solved the problems on our own? You know what I'm talking about. Belgium.

Re:Why are... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19310799)

Because there will never be a single class of citizenry.
There will always be people that want to work and people that don't want to work.
There will always be people that will want to ask questions and people that will accept the status quo and care not to ask questions.
There will people who like Paris Hilton and people who care not to know what a Paris Hilton is.

Even if you have a closed community of like minded citizenry, they will be infiltrated either by spawn or outside influence allowed by spawn.

So screw those people what want welfare for lazy bums and want to feed hungry nations that can't solve their own civil wars. I want to see what is on other planets.

Re:Why are... (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310813)

Duuh, it's like "why are you looking at other girls, when you haven't solved the issues with your current one?" I wonder :-P

Re:Why are... (1)

mosiadh (1045736) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311029)

They don't even know if the ones around here are girls are not, or who they've been with.

Re:Why are... (0, Offtopic)

harry666t (1062422) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311359)

> Why are we even LOOKING at other planets when we haven't solved the problems on our own?

Shit, mod me offtopic too but... The guy's damn right.

http://www.seeklyrics.com/lyrics/Helloween/Back-On -The-Ground.html

May I be the first.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19310647)

To gain some profit out of these annoyingly common planets. I patent the idea of large chunks of matter in the sky!

Coincidentally (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19310655)

Coincidentally they all resemble Uranus [goatse.ch] .

In the name of Mork. (-1, Offtopic)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310663)

SHAZBOT!

Nanu-Nanu.

Strange... (4, Interesting)

Karganeth (1017580) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310679)

What confuses me, is why scientist believe that having conditions the same (or very close to) those on Earth is necessary for life. For all we know, life could be able to live at thousands of degrees hot. You just don't know.

Re:Strange... (5, Insightful)

Cristofori42 (1001206) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310759)

To their credit it did say "life as we know it" not just "life in general"

Re:Strange... (2, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311065)

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it!

Oh, and there's Klingons off the starboard bow!

Re:Strange... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19311197)

Oh, and there's Klingons off the starboard bow!

Well scrape'em off, then.

Re:Strange... (1)

syrinx (106469) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311345)

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it!

Oh, and there's Klingons off the starboard bow!


We come in peace, shoot to kill!

Re:Strange... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19310801)

Who said it is necessary for life? It's necessary for life 'as we know it'.

We don't know for sure that life can exist at 1000's of degrees C(or F). We do know that life can exist at 30 C. How shocking is it that they'd be more interested in first looking for it in places we know for sure it can exist? Looking first at planets that were 1000's of degrees would be pretty stupid without some other enticing evidence that life was present there.

Re:Strange... (3, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310833)


What confuses me, is why scientist believe that having conditions the same (or very close to) those on Earth is necessary for life. For all we know, life could be able to live at thousands of degrees hot. You just don't know.

I'm still amazed at how much stuff was created in just 6000 years. Another 28 planets! The miracles never cease...

Re:Strange... (2, Insightful)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310849)

Let's say we can go visit another planet and I can plant my NASA boot on their soil. I really would like to not wear a protective suit that would protect me from the elements.
I also wouldn't want to do it naked either as we sometimes portray aliens that visit earth as naked beings (CE3K, War of the Worlds, etc...)

Re:Strange... (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310949)

Erhm... so you're saying we can't send our nudists to those planets?

Re:Strange... (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311151)

Erhm... so you're saying we can't send our nudists to those planets?
Have you seen some our nudists? I mean, come on, we don't want to scare any potential alien life forms away...

Re:Strange... (1)

Maitri (938818) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311725)

Just some random thought but it has always been interesting to me that we worry about protecting ourselves from the environment we go to but we don't worry about protecting that environment from ourselves. People worry about touching rock formations in a cave but we think nothing of leaving footsteps on the moon (well at least urban legend claims are still there). Also - do we worry about an exchange of "germs," for lack of a better word? Germs say from the outside of a space suit or equipment? I know it sounds like bad sci-fi but history has shown us repeatedly that when two diverse environments interact the exchanges aren't always positive. I would hate for the first astronaut to mars to bring back the viral equivalent of the bubonic plague for instance...

Extreme conditions (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310919)

For all we know, life could be able to live at thousands of degrees hot. You just don't know.

Whoever wrote the article doesn't know about the life that lives around volcanic vents deep in the ocean or the things living deep underground at extreme temps and pressures.

Re:Strange... (2)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311045)

For all we know, life could be able to live at thousands of degrees hot. You just don't know.

Yes I do [resa.net] .

Chemistry. (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311165)

What confuses me, is why scientist believe that having conditions the same (or very close to) those on Earth is necessary for life. For all we know, life could be able to live at thousands of degrees hot. You just don't know.

Chemistry works the same way, regardless of which solar system you are in. While it might be possible that life exists on planets that are slightly colder or slightly warmer than Earth, the chances of it existing on places as cold as Pluto or as hot as Venus/Mercury are infinitesimally slim, because reaction speeds on the former are just too slow, and the high temperatures on the latter are not very conducive to the formation of complex molecules.

Also, water has some fairly unique properties that basically no other liquid has (for example, it's denser in liquid form than in solid form).

Prove it. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311499)

"Chemistry works the same way, regardless of which solar system you are in."

Prove it.

Alien Chemistry (2, Interesting)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311625)

I always liked Sci-Fi stories where aliens had alien chemistry. There was one where creatures lived on the Sun with bodies formed of plasma shaped by intricately twisted magnetic fields. They were spacefaring, but one of the hazards was annoying chunks of cold dark matter in the orbital plane. (what was God thinking?) One touch was instant death for a Sun person. Another had inhabitants of Jupiter swimming in methane seas and smelting solid hydrogen for tools.

Re:Strange... (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311235)

"You just don't know" is correct. We don't know. However, we do know that life can survive in the temperature range where water is liquid. So it is extremely interesting to find the existence of planets beyond the Earth that have conditions where our kind of life can survive. As for other types of life, based on other chemistries, there has been lots of speculation, but so far no actual biology. Very likely the only way we'll know whether other chemistries will allow life to form is when we find it.

Re:Strange... (1)

umbra_dweller (797279) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311329)

I'll grant you that life might exist in other forms, but we have no idea what those other forms might be - if life exists in a place that is thousands of degrees, it might be very hard to detect it, since we have no idea what to look for. It makes sense to me to start with earth-like planets, because no matter what other ecological models might exist out there, we know that ours can work and we know what it looks like.

Re:Strange... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19311553)

"....life could be able to live at thousands of degrees hot. You just don't know."

I'm sure most of us don't know about this new temperature measurement you refer to as "hot"
What is the conversion rate in celsius?

Please elaborate....

Primordial plasma (5, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311671)

For all we know, life could be able to live at thousands of degrees hot. You just don't know.

Sure we know. Life won't survive at thousands of degrees because organic molecules fall apart at those temperatures, unless it's based on some element we don't see in the periodic table. A few thousand degrees means a good part of an eV per particle. Most chemical bonds will break in such an environment. Other elements don't behave right for life- they either form little molecules with a dozen or so atoms, or long simple polymers like asbestos. At thousands of degrees you won't even see that. Oxygen and fluorine can produce stable compounds with high bond energies but even those will break, and ceramic-based life has generally been a non-starter. Carbon itself will for the most part only exist in a free state although carbon monoxide (surprisingly stable) appears in stellar spectra.

Of course the definition of "life" is abstract in a general sense and doesn't necessarily involve electron chemistry at all. But if there's life anywhere on the sun, it's the sort of life that college-age geeks imagine existing at some level in the cellular automata programs they write for homework.

So how many are we up to now, in total? (4, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310697)

And how many systems have we looked at? It seems with the rate we're finding new planets nowadays, we might be able to start narrowing down the possible values of fp [wikipedia.org]

(Side note: I really wish Slashdot would allow <sub> and <sup> tags. I know only a subset of HTML is allowed to prevent abuse, but there's nothing harmful about subscripts and superscripts!)

39 Planets Total (0)

Nymz (905908) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310865)

4 terrestrial
4 gas giants
3 dwarfs
28 new dwarfs
--
39 planets total... until the next time we look up in the sky.

Re:39 Planets Total (1)

canUbeleiveIT (787307) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310995)

4 terrestrial
4 gas giants
3 dwarfs
28 new dwarfs


You forgot:
40 ?
41 Profit!

249 Planets Total (not including dwarf planets) (5, Informative)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311191)

Actually, so far, 241 extrasolar planets [wikipedia.org] have been discovered.

More impressive? (1)

juuri (7678) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311535)

What is even more impressive to me, call it 241 or call it 249 planets, is the following:

* Consider a planet like mars that could one day be terraformed or colonized by people from Earth.
* Let's call that a planet suitable for life as we know it.
* Then there is Earth where we do already live.

What does that give us? 2 of 241 or 249 planets in the known universe that could possibly
harbour life as we know it. That is a startingly high percentage.

High percentage (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311651)

By "high percentage", I assume you mean that if you multiply that out by the known stars in just our galaxy, you get an impressively large number. However, that percentage is no doubt quite low compared to its actual value. Currently, we have to be very lucky to detect a habitable planet. The James Webb Space Telescope will make it much easier. In 10-20 years (those are not nuclear fusion or AI "years", but are real years), I expect that percentage will be much larger (as will the total numbers).

Re:High percentage (1)

juuri (7678) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311737)

I thought it was quite clear what I meant. Of the known planets a startingly high
percentage of them can harbour life as we know it. Any percentage above
0.000000001 is extremely high given our understanding of the universe just
ten years ago.

I said nothing about how this holds up in comparison to the number of stars,
galaxies, chickens, functioning walkmen or bottles of aftershave in the universe.

Re:So how many are we up to now, in total? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19311179)

(Side note: I really wish Slashdot would allow and tags. I know only a subset of HTML is allowed to prevent abuse, but there's nothing harmful about subscripts and superscripts!)
Because real posters dont cite references. :P

we are not alone (2, Insightful)

jcgam69 (994690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310701)

"Our Milky Way galaxy has 200 billion stars. I would estimate that 10 percent of them, perhaps, have planets that are habitable," Marcy said.
We are most definitely not alone in this galaxy.

Re:we are not alone (-1, Offtopic)

fritsd (924429) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311001)

Are you saying that you're a planet?? Mother Gaea, is that you?

Re:we are not alone (4, Interesting)

Jarnin (925269) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311083)

When you're typing away on your computer late at night, do you consider yourself to be alone? Sure, you might be the only human in the room, but you are definitely not alone. There are insects and mites creeping around that room hidden from view. There are bacteria covering every surface of the room. So while a layperson would say "I'm here by myself" a biologist would smirk and keep quiet so they didn't scare you silly with all the bugs you're surrounded with.

Habitable planets mean just that: there's probably life on them, but not life you would ever think twice about. Many of those planets, if habitable, wouldn't look like they're life-bearing at all. Sure, they might have oxygen atmospheres which we could breath, and they might have liquid water, but toss in your fishing pole and you wouldn't catch any fish (or fish-like animals).

I'm really getting tired of all the sensationalist journalism that reports on findings like this. Sure, there's most likely habitable planets out there, and sure, there's probably life on them, but when you explain to a layperson what kinds of life, they say "oh, is that all?". Science fiction has embedded itself into our consciousness so that the only life we think about is animal life. Unless there are little green men running around on those planets, most people simply don't care (which is sad).

I can't wait until we find signs of life on Mars or Europa. Even bacteria would be the most important discovery in the history of humanity, but the mindless masses with simply shrug their shoulders and flip the channel to something a bit more their level.

Re:we are not alone (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311297)

I can't wait until we find signs of life on Mars or Europa. Even bacteria would be the most important discovery in the history of humanity, but the mindless masses with simply shrug their shoulders and flip the channel to something a bit more their level.

Define "most important discovery in the history of humanity" please.

I consider fire to be rather important. Electricity, atomic energy, microbiology, genetics, radio waves, etc. Plus all the neat inventions which make uses of said discoveries.... Bacteria on Mars would be interesting certainly, and fuel many religious debates, but how exactly would they be "the most important"?

Re:we are not alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19311381)

How would finding bacteria on Mars be considered "the most important discovery in the history of humanity." ? I guess it would have big implications if you could proved that it evolved independently, but what if we found out that it merely hitched a ride on a chunk of matter ejected from Earth (or maybe the other way around)?

Re:we are not alone (2, Interesting)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311707)

Habitable planets mean just that: there's probably life on them, but not life you would ever think twice about.

I don't know about that. Every single planet we've ever found life on so far has also evolved intelligent life. Coincidence, perhaps, but that's a pretty good hit ratio.

The catch is that perhaps 50% of that intelligent life will take billions of years to evolve, and the other 50% of that intelligent life evolved intelligence billions of years before we did.

Given the quantity of habitable planets out there, it's probably a safe bet that the universe has a good quantity of intelligent life that's been around very very much longer than us.

It's not that simple (4, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311569)

It's not that simple. Just being in the right band doesn't mean it'll be habitable, or that life developped... at the right time.

E.g., look at Venus. It's in the right band too, but it's hell. The slow rotation speed means it has almost no magnetic field, and the solar radiation stripped away all hydrogen. The result is a world without water, and with an atmosphere of almost pure CO2. (Well, ok, and a little nitrogen.)

E.g., look at Mars. We're finding that it used to have water, but the world is so small that it didn't manage to retain an atmosphere. Not only the low gravity means that gas has a hell of an easier time escaping, but the core already froze and it ended up without much of a magnetic field again. So solar winds helped strip it of whatever atmosphere it hadn't already lost.

Earth itself paints an even scarier story.

See, Earth started with an atmosphere of mosthly methane gas. That's a _very_ powerful greenhouse gas, about 200 times more potent than CO2. But that was ok because the sun also was a lot less hot. Without the methane, Earth would have been a deep frozen snowball and life would never have evolved.

But then the sun gradually got warmer, very gradually over billions of years. And Earth would have eventually become a hell worse than Venus.

Luckily some of these new (at the time) bacteria had started doing photosynthesis for a living, and turned the atmosphere into lots of oxygen and nitrogen, which doesn't quite act as greenhouse gasses.

And incidentally that _did_ cause the planet to turn into a deep frozen snowball in the process. Luckily a new batch of carbon got spewed into the atmosphere and thawed it again. It took some tens of millions of years for that to accumulate, though, because we're talking a _lot_ of carbon in the air to defrost as snowball Earth. As in, at least one estimate says 13% carbon dioxide. And that was the first scary skirting with complete extinction.

And from there it's been riding a bit of a thin line between turning into hell and turning into a snowball. E.g., if you look at the massive coal deposits from the Carboniferous era, they had to come from _somewhere_, and that somewhere is almost certainly the air. Without the right conditions for this (e.g., the lower sea levels and the recent event of plants whose wood couldn't be broken because bacteria which can digest lignin didn't yet exist), would Earth have eventually turned into Venus?

So basically if you look at it, 10% of the planets being in the right band still paints an over-optimistic picture. You also have to have the right conditions and the right timing. E.g., if the oxygen production had come a billion years later, Earth would now be pretty much the same as Venus.

Are we alone? Maybe not, but don't get that optimistic based on that 10% figure.

Re:It's not that simple (4, Insightful)

jddj (1085169) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311679)

More to the point, not even a hundred years elapsed between the time we made the first tentative experiments with radio and the point at which we developed the technology to wipe life off the planet with the machinery of war.

This doesn't even comprehend accidental or intentional sterilization of the globe with some new biological weapon or experiment not yet comprehended.

It's possible that over the long term, only the not-as-smart-as-us lifeforms survive.

We'd have to find each other not just in space, but in time as well. And the realities of time in space travel mean there may no longer be a welcoming committee there by the time we put down the gangway.

Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310717)

Can any astronomers out there clue us in? Is this just observational bias or are elliptical orbits more common than our more circular ones? I mean, I know it's likely a long way in the future, but that could be a small problem for our future colonization of the galaxy. It would certainly mean our new homes would likely be less than earth-like.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1, Insightful)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310947)

We are circular? that's news to me. We are also elliptical around the sun.

The only problem I see, is space travel. It's a long long long way to the nearest exoplanet and we will probably never be able to travel that far thanks to the laws of the universe.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (2, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310999)

The article says the newly discovered planets have more elliptical orbits than ours. As for space travel, well, generation arks aren't out of the question. Even using such a system we could colonize the entire galaxy in a few million years.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311357)

I think we're a long way off from producing self-contained ecospheres that can survive for tens and hundreds of thousands of years in voyages to even the closest solar systems with potentially habitable planets. Can you imagine the complexities involved in assuring such vessels can be maintained. You would have to have a vast amount of raw materials, processing facilities and technical know-how. You would have to have a very efficient long-term energy source to keep things going, and you would have to have redundancy up the ying-yang. The cost, even to a future civilization capable of such engineering feats, would be incredibly high. Heck, even with the technology for manned missions to the Moon and neighboring planets, it's been nearly forty years since anyone even bothered to do it.

My bet is that by the point that we develop systems and engineering principles capable of producing such craft, we may have means of moving large objects at meaningful fractions of the speed of light, and that we'll be taking advantage of relativistic effects so that a journey to Alpha Centauri might take centuries to the folks on Earth, but decades to those in the interstellar spacecraft.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311025)

We are circular? that's news to me. We are also elliptical around the sun.

I think they mean "more elliptical." Or rather, orbits where the foci of the ellipse are much, much further apart.

I guess the assumption is that a very elliptical orbit would produce too much variation in the planet's climate to sustain live and allow it to evolve very far, although I'm not sure what the basis for that is. Seems that, with the right ingredients, you could get all sorts of interesting forms of life that could withstand dramatic freeze/thaw cycles, as long as they weren't dramatic enough to boil the planet's water or atmosphere away. Here on Earth we have ample examples of creatures with very long reproductive cycles (e.g. 17-year cicadas), so I don't think we should rule anything out.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19311201)

So does that make a parabola "infinitely elliptical"?

Call Guinness! (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311243)

An AC with a legitimate question.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (0, Troll)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311585)

So does that make a parabola "infinitely elliptical"?

I'd guess so, in a way. But it's a tough question to answer, because although parabolas have some ellipse-ish properties in terms of shape, an ellipse is by definition a closed surface (it's a conic section, the shape you'd get by slicing a cone with a plane), while a parabola isn't.

On the other end of the extreme though, a circle is just an ellipse where the two foci are placed at the same point. But when they're infinitely far apart, I'm not sure whether you can say that you've created a parabola, or just a really big ellipse. (I suspect the latter.)

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311503)

I think part of what we're ultimately looking for is Earth-like worlds, not just in size or density, but in the possibility of holding Earth-like life, and by extension, possibly being able to support human life. I'm quite sure there all sorts of worlds that could harbor life, and even finding some sort of hot house where temperature-tolerant bacteria evolved or some world that went through annual super-freezing and super-heating seasons due to a highly elliptical orbit would be incredibly exciting, but I really think the secret desire of astronomers is to find Earth 2; a lovely place with average annual temperature are in line with the more hospitable areas of Earth, where open water can be found and an atmosphere resembling ours is present.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311203)

We are circular? that's news to me
That's the first thing I was looking for. "We're circular? Since when?"

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (4, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311135)

IANAA, but Patrick Moore plays the xylophone.

A circular (or near-circular) orbit should be extremely rare. It is the special case of an elliptical orbit where the speed is very very close to the theoretical speed required to orbit at that distance from the sun and the direction of motion is very close to being at right-angles to the sun.

The Earth is an intriguing case - the original third planet collided with a planet the size of Mars, resulting in part of the crust being blasted off into space forming a mass that is now our moon and a debris ring. A collision on that scale - two almost equally massive objects slamming at an angle - must have resulted in a change in velocity. Since Earth is now on a near-circular orbit, it would seem not unreasonable to assume it started off on a much more elliptical path.

Virtually all of the known objects in the Kepler Belt follow extreme orbits - some varying by 300+ AU in distance from the sun. However, these are all very old objects. They have not been subject to many collisions and are almost in their original state.

On the basis of our extrasolar observations to date, plus the Kepler Belt observations, plus the Earth enigma, I would conclude that elliptical orbits are the norm for younger solar systems and that more circular orbits become slightly more common in older systems where there is a chance that collisions will have averaged things out better.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311703)

A circular (or near-circular) orbit should be extremely rare. It is the special case of an elliptical orbit where the speed is very very close to the theoretical speed required to orbit at that distance from the sun and the direction of motion is very close to being at right-angles to the sun.


Well, not that rare. You make it sound as if there is a cosmic crapshoot between all values of ellipticity, ergo the subset of low ellipticities should be small according to the vagaries of chance. However, the formation mechanism of planets favors low ellipticities: they emerge from the debris disk around a protostar. Large planetoids in circular orbits within the debris disk can accrete nearby material slowly and build up over time. A large planetoid sweeping through the debris disk in a highly elliptical orbit is more likely to suffer a high-velocity collision that will break the planetoid into smaller chunks (since the disk rotates in a Keplerian fashion rather than a rigid disk, speeds vary with radius), reducing its accretion rate. In short, the odds favor more-circular orbits.

As to why most extra-solar planets found so far are non-Earthlike and have orbits that are highly elliptical — well, massive planets with short periastrons are easier to find than smaller planets with large orbital radii. It's the nature of the observing method.

(And yes IAAA, or at least W while funding was around.)

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1)

kirbyoo (1037364) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311261)

It's an observational bias, based on how they find these planets. If Neptune were as close to the sun as Venus or Mercury it would have more pull on the sun and create the "wobble" that scientists use to detect the majority of exo-planets they've found. The other method of detection is watching for a planet to pass in front of it's sun. Since that requires a lot of things to happen in our favor (orbital position, planet size / speed) we're going to find a lot more planets by looking for the wobble.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311495)

Can any astronomers out there clue us in? Is this just observational bias or are elliptical orbits more common than our more circular ones? I mean, I know it's likely a long way in the future, but that could be a small problem for our future colonization of the galaxy. It would certainly mean our new homes would likely be less than earth-like.

I can't understand why we would make the assumption that these planets might have orbits similar to ours - I mean, they are observing planets with very short orbits so why should we expect the orbits in a solarsystem that's consisting of planets whipping around their star at a blazingly fast 1 orbit every 2.6 days to be similar to ours?

When we start finding planets with orbits in the hundreds of days, thats when things will get *really* interesting.

Re:Are elliptical orbits easier to detect? (1)

AmigaMMC (1103025) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311713)

It's just "physical" bias, just like seeing only bigger planets. These planets are detected because of the lensing effect and probably having elliptical orbits and being large are some of the reasons why we can detect them. Who knows, with the Hubble substitute with might be able to see under different requirements. Only 15 years ago people where doubting the very existence of planets outside of our solar system.

Happy New Years! (5, Funny)

AttillaTheNun (618721) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310725)

An orbit in 2.6 days, huh? That's gotta be a record. Barely time to recover from the New Year's hangover before popping the cork again.

Equinox Parties (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311375)

If you count celebrations for the Vernal and Autumnal equinoxes you can just stay drunk all the time.

here? (2, Informative)

coldcell (714061) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310741)

"any-day-now-we're-going-to-here-about-squidgy-thi ngs-in-outer-space dept."

Surely he means 'hear'?

also:

Its rocky core is surrounded by an amount of water compressed into a solid form at high pressures and low temperatures.

You mean... ice?

Re:here? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310845)

water compressed into a solid form at high pressures and low temperatures.
You mean... ice?

He probably means one of the weirder kinds [wikipedia.org] of ice.

Re:here? (4, Interesting)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310847)

You mean... ice?
Actually, the interesting thing there is that it is a specific kind of high pressure ice. If you never thought a topic as mundane as ice could have complexity, check out the different different known phases [wikipedia.org] .

Surely he means 'hear'?
Maybe they just mean we're going to go somewhere, whereabouts squidgy things in outer space are!

Re:here? (1)

JP205 (263673) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310883)

I thought ice turned into water at high pressures?

Re:here? (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310931)

quite the opposite:
Gas turns to water at high pressure.
Water turns to ice at even higher pressure.

Depends (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311251)

Depends on the temperature and pressure. Under some conditions, it's possible to take common ice (Ice Ih, "one - H") and force it back into water by applying pressure to it. Hence the thin film of water underneath an ice-skater's skates, or under a thin blade or wire strung over an ice block. (As an interesting demonstration, you can take a piece of piano wire, put it over an ice block, and weight either end -- the wire will descend into the ice block without leaving a "cut" behind, because the water will re-freeze behind it, if it's cold enough.)

However, at other combinations of temperature and pressure, you can create other types of ice, many of which don't really resemble the "ice" that we commonly think of. IMO, we really shouldn't refer to these other forms of solidified water as "ice," instead reserving that term only for the common Ih state. But the rest of the physics community seems to disagree, and I suppose "ice" is less ponderous than "solid water" to write over and over.

Re:here? (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310887)

it's true he does mean Ice, but not quite as we know it. The extra gravitational pressure allows water to solidify at a much higher temperature than it does here. So even though the planet is extremely hot and very close to the star in that system, High-temperature ice still forms.

Re:here? (1)

imikem (767509) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310927)

TFA says the solid water is at high pressure AND temperature. So no, not ordinary ice.

These announcements are seemingly routine now, but I find them fascinating. We can't even image these directly, yet are able to infer all this from the effects on the central stars in these systems. Bravo to the people involved.

It's new! Just like the other one! (1)

dmccarty (152630) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310747)

"The profound conclusion is, here we've found yet another type of planet that is already represented in our solar system," Marcy said.

Yet another type that's already represented? I guess it's not "another type," then.

Re:It's new! Just like the other one! (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311169)

He means exactly what he said: they found a type of planet that had not previously been seen OUTSIDE the solar system. This is significant because it is evidence that our solar system is not unique.

Exotic ice. (4, Interesting)

Palmyst (1065142) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310839)

Cold water is denser than ice. So compressing H2O near its melting point actually tends to melt it rather than freeze it. Extremely high pressure can turn this back into solid state again.

Gliese 436 b is supposed to be at a surface temperature of 520 Kelvin. The phase diagram of H2O [lsbu.ac.uk] indicates that for certain "exotic" forms of ice to form at that temperature, you need more than 10^9 Pascals of pressure. It would be interesting to calculate the gravitational force on the surface of the planet, and at what depth pressures of 10^9 Pa can be created by gravity, from the known data about the mass and size [wikipedia.org] of the planet.

Evil scientist (1)

unablepostAC (1044474) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310869)

And in 5 years, those evil scientist, will do another meeting, and decide, half of them are no longer to be called planets.
and came out with a silly name like, outsiddy planets, or like
Like the injustice to Pluto

here (1)

splict (1024037) | more than 7 years ago | (#19310933)

from the any-day-now-we're-going-to-here-about-squidgy-thin gs-in-outer-space dept.
I know that this is a longer than normal "from the..." line, but...

Oh, nevermind.

Plain language, anyone? (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311005)

"surrounded by an amount of water compressed into a solid form at high pressures and low temperatures."

You mean, "ice"?

OMG! (1)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311067)

We're surrounded!

I, for one... (1)

ubuwalker31 (1009137) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311093)

print "I, for one, welcome our new exo-planet overlords" * 28

Elliptical? (4, Informative)

soundhack (179543) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311097)

Umm it's been ages since I took any astronomy course, but I thought Kepler figured out that *our* orbit was elliptical?

I assume the article meant "elliptical" in the qualitative sense, that their orbits "looked" like ellipses while our orbit "looks" like a circle.

28 new planets? Bah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19311139)

How many planets is that after the downgrade?

We ARE alone (1)

SlashDev (627697) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311149)

think about it for a minute: - A planet needs to be at a precise distance from a star based on its chemical makeup. - A planet needs a trigger in order for life to emerge. - That life needs to be able to somehow sustain itself. - That life has to be able to survive celestial events. Odds that such a planet exists anywhere is astronomical. Earth is really one of a kind place.

Re:We ARE alone (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311323)

The only problem with that logic is that you're assuming life can't develop in any form other than what we have here on earth. However, many scientists think silicon could make a serviceable substitute for carbon as the building block of life elsewhere, and that still assumes a similarity to the life here on earth.

However, if it's possible for life to develop in other environments, then it looks like there's going to be a lot of company in this little galaxy of ours.

Re:We ARE alone (4, Interesting)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311369)

think about it for a minute:

A whole minute? Might make brain hurt!

And people who do this for a living have thought about it for far longer than a minute, and have arrived at the exact opposite conclusion as you.

A planet needs to be at a precise distance from a star based on its chemical makeup.

How precise? NASA folks think Mars might have once supported microbial life (maybe still does based on the methane readings). That's two planets in one solar system at a precise distance. They even theorize about life under Europa's ice. That's pretty loose precision. And don't get me started on extremophiles.

A planet needs a trigger in order for life to emerge.

The formation of the first protocells is a hotly debated topic. Who knows how often the "trigger" occurs or how amenable our universe's physics are to it's happening?

The Miller experiment in the 1950's showed you can get the basic organic molecules from the fundamental gasses and some lightning bolts. Organics have also been observed, via spectra, in comets and nebula. They're everywhere.

That life needs to be able to somehow sustain itself.

Isn't that one of the definitions of life?

That life has to be able to survive celestial events.

There some that feel that early Earth microbes surivied the massive collision that created the Moon. All subsequent cataclysims resulted in extinctions, but never a complete erasure of life. I think life has been proven empirically to be rather hardy.

Odds that such a planet exists anywhere is astronomical. Earth is really one of a kind place.

We have absolutely no idea what the probability is.

That reminds me. When the heck does "Spore" come out? :-)

When's the auction? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311159)

I fancy me a new planet to call my own.

Considernig... (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311187)

Considering that we're finding so many planets, don't you think it's rather assuming of us to claim that Riyo Mori is really, truly, Miss Universe 2007?

I do.

TLF

Re:Considernig... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19311367)

I agree. I seriously thought it was going to be a toss up between Miss Andromeda and Miss NGC 2865.

Ah well, there's always the next universal cycle.

Re:Considernig... (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311411)

I think you'll have a hard time convincing human judges to vote for the Green Blob representing Omicron Percei 8. On the other hand, I do hear good things about those Orion slave girls.

Jump Points (1)

MarcoPon (689115) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311267)

OK, so now we just locate the nearby Jump-Points and start enjoying some extra-solar, planet-side weekends!

Must be. (1)

88NoSoup4U88 (721233) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311307)

"The profound conclusion is, here we've found yet another type of planet that is already represented in our solar system"

Dupe?

What you're seeing... (1)

david.given (6740) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311319)

...depends very much on what you can see:

System layouts feature small rocky planets towards the star and gas giants further out. The biggest difference seen is a preference for elliptical orbits, instead of generally circular orbit we enjoy.

Yeah, but that's because the state of the art can only detect rocky planets when they're really close to the star, but can detect gas giants when they're further out; and planets with elliptical orbits are much easier to find than circular orbits, so a disproportionate number of those appear.

Some of these solar systems could have a thousand earth-like habitable planets in the multiple A.U. range, and we wouldn't even know they were there.

Re:What you're seeing... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311443)

The other thing we should be waiting for, and it may not happen quite in our life time, is large inferometers made up of widely spaced telescopes orbiting the sun. These ought to get us to resolution levels where we might even be able to differentiate continents on some hypothetical Earth-like planet. We're certainly not that far away from at least detecting planets more in the terrestial range of sizes, and being able to detect atmospheres similar to our own isn't fantasy any more either.

What I really wonder is if in, say 2020, scientists announce they have discovered an Earth-sized world with atmospheric O2, nitrogen and water vapor and stronge evidence of open water on the surface. This really isn't in the realm of fiction any more. How would this effect space programs, budgets for various kinds of telescopes, initiatives to produce more accurate ground-based and orbital telescopes, and the like? How would effect us to learn that such a planet existed?

Sure, they find 28 new planets... (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 7 years ago | (#19311785)

But try to get a plumber in over the weekend.
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