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Astronomers Announce 5-Planet System

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the looking-for-something-rockier dept.

Space 145

An anonymous reader writes "Astronomers have detected a record-breaking 5th planet orbiting the star 55 Cancri, 41 light years distant. This planet orbits within the 'habitable zone,' where water could presumably exist, but it's probably another gas giant like Saturn, so any liquid water would have to be on a moon. There's still a big gap between this planet and the outermost planet where no planets have been detected yet, so there could yet be a rocky planet in the system. The lead researcher said he's optimistic that 'continued observations will reveal a rocky planet within five years.'"

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God Smack Your Ass !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260351)

God Smack Your Ass !!

MORE cuts!?!? (5, Funny)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260365)

When I first saw this headline, I gasped. They already eliminated Pluto - what ELSE could they disqualify!?

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260507)

When I first saw this headline, I gasped. They already eliminated Pluto - what ELSE could they disqualify!?
Well it turns out that Neptune was just a smudge on the lens, Mercury was just a big piece of garbage [tv.com] and Jupiter was just Rosie O'Donnell's long-lost sister.

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260561)

I was going to be very impressed, but you didn't link to Quark [wikipedia.org] .

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260533)

Anything that can't support life is a rock, oceball or gas giant. Not worthy of the title 'planet'

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261379)

'Planet' isn't a title. http://www.iau.org/iau0603.414.0.html [iau.org]

The IAU members gathered at the 2006 General Assembly agreed that a "planet" is defined as a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261805)

What I don't understand, is why is this a surprise? Are we THAT proud as a race (as...life?) that we really DON'T expect this EVERYWHERE?

I guess I always figured this was just the norm...am I wrong?

--beckerist

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

DiscipleN2k (914143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21263535)

I don't know. I think it's more of a "we always knew there had to be one out there and it's about damn time we found it" kind of thing.

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

Cecil (37810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262359)

Except we have no idea what the requirements for supporting life are, really. Even "life as we know it" is becoming broader and broader every day. Maybe one day we'll be able to conclusively say "carbon-based DNA-based mitochondrial cellular life cannot exist in this environment because (x)" but we're a very, very long way from even there right now.

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262993)

There was a pretty interesting article in New Scientist in June that discussed the potential for "other" forms of life, and considered the environment that commonly proposed life bases would require: http://space.newscientist.com/article/mg19426071.200-life--but-not-as-we-know-it.html [newscientist.com] (subscription required)

Non-carbon-based life has some pretty difficult-to-overcome hurdles.

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (2, Interesting)

Cecil (37810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21263677)

I've read that article, it's good, but it is still "life not quite as we know it" rather than "life nothing like what we know". As a counterexample, what about an AI? An AI has basically no requirements as far as chemistry are concerned. While it's laughably implausible to imagine an electronic AI "evolving" out of nothingness the way biological organisms did it's still -- by my definition -- "life" and there's no reason we couldn't find it "living" on any planet on our solar system or indeed any we've discovered so far. I find it hard to believe that these are the only two types of life that are physically possible, so I imagine that there may yet be some interesting things to discover out there.

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260809)

according to this http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/solarsys.htm [lhup.edu] apparently quite a few...

Mercury: Doesn't do any good, and you can't see it.
Venus: Environmentalist can use to show clobal warming gone wild.
Uranus: Too many gas-planets.
Neptune: Another unnessecary gas planet.
Pluto: (Already dealt with).

The keepers are:
Earth: For obious reasons (Unless you go for the Red Dwarf solution).
Mars: Too much money spent to get rid of.
Jupiter: It's so big.
Saturn: Those nice rings everyone loves.

So the real question is which one they decided to keep...

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

lostguru (987112) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261175)

probably have to keep uranus for all the dumb jokes

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262065)

probably have to keep uranus for all the dumb jokes


Of course, all those jokes will finally be put to rest come 2620 when scientists agree to finally rename Uranus.

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (0, Redundant)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262593)

Of course, all those jokes will finally be put to rest come 2620 when scientists agree to finally rename Uranus.

..and the obligatory Futurama quote of the day:

Fry: "What's it called now?"
Farnsworth: "Urectum."

Thanks for the setup!

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261009)

Look, I'm gonna be frank, Those fat ass outer planets haven't been pulling their own weight. Our solar budget just didn't live up to expectations and we're looking at trimming... We've brought in some outside consultants to help us identify where we can slim down. This is for the better.

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (1)

Wabbit Wabbit (828630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262323)

Look, I'm gonna be frank, Those fat ass outer planets haven't been pulling their own weight.


Haven't they, though? I'm no scientist (no, really) but doesn't their larger size have some kind of gravitational effect on other planets which helps keep them in proper orbit (or somesuch?)

Someone help me out here?

Re:MORE cuts!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21262879)

The gas giants; if you can't stand on it, its not a planet.

More news (4, Funny)

Skiron (735617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260421)

"The lead researcher said he's optimistic that 'continued observations will reveal a rocky planet within five years.'" Sylvester Stallone commented on this breaking news; "Eh?"

Re:More news (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261825)

SPACE ADRIAAAAANN!!!!

What record? (2, Funny)

teh moges (875080) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260431)

Our solar system has more then that...

Re:What record? (1)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260985)

RTFA. It is in the first paragraph.

Astronomers have discovered a record-breaking fifth planet around the nearby star 55 Cancri, making it the only star aside from the sun known to have five planets.
Still a bit awkward though to use a headline like that. I'm pretty sure that statistically speaking, there are at least millions of stars with five or more planets around them.

What Record? (2, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260435)

What Record did this break? The number of planets detected in a single (extrasolar) system record? That shouldn't be too hard considering we're probably missing over half of the extrasolar planets with our current detection threshold. I mean, this is certainly interesting, but by no means surprising. We should be detecting systems with more and more planets every year as we begin to detect smaller and smaller planets.

Re:What Record? (3, Insightful)

evwah (954864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260525)

assuming systems with more than said number of planets are common, or even exist (other than ours). scientists take nothing for granted. well they aren't supposed to anyway. that makes this newsworthy.

Re:What Record? (5, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260997)

That shouldn't be too hard considering we're probably missing over half of the extrasolar planets with our current detection threshold.

To a very, very close approximation, we're missing all the extrasolar planets. We've yet to discover a single one outside our own Galaxy :-)

Re:What Record? (2, Informative)

evwah (954864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261433)

population of the universe: none

Re:What Record? (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262203)

Touche, you out pedanted me very well :P.

Extrasolar simply means beyond our solar system (2, Insightful)

hlomas (1010351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262349)

Extrasolar planet refers to any planet beyond our solar system, not beyond our galaxy.

The Milky Way galaxy (ours) contains ~200 billion stars, each one a potential solar system.


Obligatory wikipedia article listing some of the discovered extrasolar planets: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extrasolar_planet [wikipedia.org]

Re:Extrasolar simply means beyond our solar system (1)

Grave (8234) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262617)

Sorry, but everything outside our galaxy is, by definition, also outside our solar system; thus, everything outside our galaxy is extrasolar.

Re:Extrasolar simply means beyond our solar system (1)

jberryman (1175517) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262737)

What grandparent is saying is that considering that we have yet to discover a planet outside our own galaxy, 0% is a very good approximation of the percentage of the few planets in the Universe which we have discovered.

Re:What Record? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21262957)

...by no means surprising. We should be detecting systems with more and more planets every year as we begin to detect smaller and smaller planets.
The record is 5 and you think this record is being broken every year? ...for how many years do you think this has been going on?

more planets to come! (5, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260479)

55 Cancri has produced "a rat's nest of radial velocity data," Fischer said. "We probably still don't have all the planets. We are pulling out one thread at a time, disentangling all these orbits, and it has taken a lot more data and time than we predicted.


by the sounds of it, the wobble on this thing is just a mess- probably a lot like what our solar system's wobble looks like from the outside.

Re:more planets to come! (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260937)

by the sounds of it, the wobble on this thing is just a mess- probably a lot like what our solar system's wobble looks like from the outside.

The problem, is that the wobble we measure is a lot more messy, as we have relatively poor signal/noise ratios. The wobble isn't even very messy when you look at it in the frequency domain (its spectra), as basically each planet orbiting it represents a single vertical line, provided that their orbit is not too eccentric.

There was this java program I tried to analyse the "wobble" data of stats in order to find planets, i just don't remember what it's called, however usually the community of people who use that find about planets before the press releases.

Re:more planets to come! (4, Informative)

MMatessa (673870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261297)

The java program to analyze wobble data is called Systemic and can be found at http://www.oklo.org/ [oklo.org] .

Re:more planets to come! (1)

Gadren (891416) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262629)

Re:more planets to come! (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262845)

Yup. And actually they've had an update [oklo.org] related to today's release which is quite relevant.

Re:more planets to come! (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261033)

by the sounds of it, the wobble on this thing is just a mess- probably a lot like what our solar system's wobble looks like from the outside.

Probably worse than ours. The Solar System is dominated by two planets. An astronomer looking back at us from 55 Cancri with the same technology would detect Jupiter, and probably Saturn. If he's patient enough to watch for a couple of orbits, he might just spot Uranus and Neptune too.

The other planets wouldn't be detectable to our technology. They'd see a system with four planets, not eight. So their five is, in a sense, already ahead of our own system.

Re:more planets to come! (4, Interesting)

cperciva (102828) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261237)

The gas giants are more massive, but also much further away. Saturn is 95x more massive than the Earth, but it's 9.5x further away from the Sun, so its tug on the Sun (mass/distance^2) is only marginally more than the Earth's -- and is less than that of Venus, which is 0.8 Earth masses but only 0.72 AU away from the Sun.

An astronomer from 55 Cancri would probably detect Jupiter (mass/distance^2 = 11.7 Earths/AU^2), Venus (1.56 Earths/AU^2), Saturn (1.04), Earth (1.00), and possibly Mercury (0.367), while Mars (0.046), Uranus (0.039), and Neptune (0.019) would almost certainly go unnoticed.

Re:more planets to come! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261785)

I'm pretty sure Uranus is more than large enough for detection.

Re:more planets to come! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21262645)

That was actually the best Uranus joke ever.

Re:more planets to come! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261831)

the wobble on this thing is just a mess- probably a lot like what our solar system's wobble looks like from the outside.
That's just the cyclical earth plane shift from Rosie O'Donell getting up out of bed for breakfast. No worries.

Re:more planets to come! (2, Interesting)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262677)

I think we will find a lot rocky-crust planets orbiting other stars by 2025 thanks to the Terrestrial Planet Finder space telescope array that will probably be fully operational after 2016. They should concentrate on every star like our Sun within 100 light years of our Solar System in its search.

Curb your enthusiasm (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260485)

Imagine astronomers found a whole lot of earth like planets.
Imagine they even found one that seemed to have artificial satellites.
After years of observing and improving our telescopes, imagine we managed to image the planet itself and saw a civilization much like our own.
Glorious times we live in huh?

Imagine after much observation we found lots of these civilized neighbors out there in the black.
Imagine we tried to send them signals and waited the many years for a reply.
What if none came?
After hundreds of years of knowing we were not alone we came to the inescapable realization that just communicating with other intelligent beings in our galaxy is so hard and takes so long that it may never be achieved.

Wormholes and warp drives and ark ships.. what if it is all an unattainable dream?

Thankfully, I like to dream.

re your sig: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260535)

fuck you, asshole

Think positively (4, Funny)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260597)

At least after we send our greeting, it will take 2 or 3 generations for the extermination fleet to arrive....

Re:Think positively (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260787)

i'm pretty sure if a civilization has reached a greater level of technology then us they wouldn't be hostile.

at worst they may look down on us like we look down on cats or dogs, but they wouldn't need to go to war with us. earth doesn't have any resources that make it unquie in the universe besides it's living conditions, and i'm sure if they have solved space travel artifical conditions are no problem for them.

Re:Think positively (1)

Tangent128 (1112197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260953)

There's no reason to assume that technological progress = social progress. Especially since war is one of the stronger drives for technological advancement. (For us, anyway.)

But yeah, flying light years to another planet just to make war is rather impractical. Even with some sort of hyperdrive- do you want to risk any survivors of an attack, knowing such a device is possible, developing their own and striking back?

Don't count out ego, though- I wouldn't place aliens above empire-building for empire's sake.

Re:Think positively (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261941)

There's no reason to assume that what a piece of humanity considers social progress would have any resonance with an alien intelligence. There's no reason to assume anything about humanity would bear any similarity.

Re:Think positively (2, Funny)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260887)

The current generation always dumps their problems on the following generations.

Re:Think positively (2, Funny)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261791)

Not if we send our greeting in the form of an extermination fleet.

Re:Curb your enthusiasm (2, Interesting)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261191)

Here's exactly the kind of comment I hate whenever we're talking about something dealing more or less with extraterrestrial life, it's how we go from very down-to-Earth claims such as "here's what we know about exoplanets" to "here's what we might find out a few years from now" to "teh extraterrians they wont care about us cause were so inferior omg!". I know extraterrestrial life is an exciting topic, but because they're so little to satisfy ourselves with people are so quick to wildly speculate that they forget that the next important and exciting steps are to find a planet where conditions for life as we know it is there and then to detect biological activity on a planet, and at this stage we're most likely talking about bacterial forms of life and such.

But you people don't care, you'd rather push your imagination to its limits to the point you'd find it disappointing if we found an alien civilisation but that they wouldn't communicate with us in a satisfactory manner. It's like people only care about what would the alien Britney Spears be like, what would aliens think about us, or what their technology must be like, that kind of stuff.

Re:Curb your enthusiasm (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261911)

How about because we're generally of the belief that if we *can* detect extraterrestrial life from here on Earth then its likely to be a heck of a lot of life. If all you detect is an oxygen rich atmosphere then that is unlikely to be very conclusive is it?

Re:Curb your enthusiasm (1)

Loke the Dog (1054294) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261491)

You obviously don't get it. Who cares about talking to the aliens? The interesting thing is to find out if we are unique or not. Finding lots of earthlike planets but no signs of life would be just as interesting as finding an alien civilization.

Re:Curb your enthusiasm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21262063)

The communications have already been achieved.

They are simply a little selective about who they reach out to.

astral projector

Ewoks live on a moon (2, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260517)

This planet orbits within the 'habitable zone,' where water could presumably exist, but it's probably another gas giant like Saturn, so any liquid water would have to be on a moon.
Any chance they plan to name this planet Endor?

Any chance they plan to name this planet Endor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260701)

Only if Chewbacca lives there . . .

Re:Any chance they plan to name this planet Endor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261833)

Wookies live on Kashykk, and Endor was a MOON. The PLANET was Yavin. Yavin IV or V, if I remember right.

Re:Any chance they plan to name this planet Endor? (1)

ls -la (937805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262385)

Wookies live on Kashykk, and Endor was a MOON. The PLANET was Yavin. Yavin IV or V, if I remember right.
Yavin was the gas giant the FIRST death star had to go around to get to the rebel base on its moon, Yavin 4.
Endor is the name of both the moon the second death star was built over, and the name of its gas giant planet.
At least you're (almost) right about the wookies, except it's spelled Kashyyyk.

5-way to include Uranus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260519)

brought to you by citizens for jokes about uranus

Make up your mind. (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260599)

First we're told that there are nine planets in our system. Then we're told that there's ten. Then we're told that Pluto and the rest don't count. Then we're told that there's not even a scientific definition of a planet, so technically there's none in our system. Now we're told that some distant star has five planets. That's more than we have!

Curious But Meaningless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260603)

These planets are curious but meaningless. Unless the theories of the neurotic genius called Burkhardt Heim [newscientist.com] are proven to be true (so that warp drive via a magnetic field is possible), no human being will ever leave our current solar system to visit a distant planet.

First contact with the Vulcans will not be possible.

Re:Curious But Meaningless (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261059)

no human being will ever leave our current solar system to visit a distant planet

Perhaps not, but our descendants might. We don't have to stay human forever.

Re:Curious But Meaningless (2, Insightful)

Loke the Dog (1054294) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261543)

No human will set foot on Neptune either, does that make it's discovery meaningless? Thank god no scientist thinks like you.

Come to think of it, I will never meet you in person, so I guess you're meaningless too.

What is the gate address? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260709)

So we can Stargate there

Re:What is the gate address? (1)

hypnagogue (700024) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261107)

Walking bird, standing dog, big eye, big eye.

Re:What is the gate address? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262025)

That's only half of it.

Walking bird, standing dog, big eye, big eye, snake, archer, pyramid.

Re:What is the gate address? (1)

Auraiken (862386) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262971)

Bah! People seem to find new ways to unleash goatse.cx upon others everyday.

SETI, and contact them? (5, Interesting)

newgalactic (840363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260757)

I already assume SETI takes finds like these into account when listening. However, is there a program around who's not intent to just listen? What if we developed a database of systems most likely to contain life, and we started a program to send the top candidates high powered radio signals. Far fetched, but maybe it'll produce some results in 100 years.

Re:SETI, and contact them? (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260815)

Assuming that the inhabitants on the planet in the habitable zone are developing technology along the same timeline as us, it would be [date we first send or sent communications outside the solar system] + 41 years. Depending on how old you are, I doubt we'll know in our lifetimes.

Re:SETI, and contact them? (1)

newgalactic (840363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261037)

Of course there are plenty of reasons for this to fail. But if they are listening to radio (biggest point of failure), any regular signal should get their attention. Think "Contact", except maybe we can send them pictures of Pamala Anderson hidden in the carrier signal.

Re:SETI, and contact them? (4, Insightful)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262055)

Upside, they're now watching the original Star Trek in its first run.

Downside, they're judging us all by William Shatner.

Re:SETI, and contact them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21263201)

Hey, if it happens to be a planet of green amazons, we're in business!

Re:SETI, and contact them? (3, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261165)

Inherent self-preservation instinct of any successful race will dictate that no one will begin transmitting like crazy to suspect systems. Its too much of a risk. Only idealists with a lot of faith in both humanity and alienity would be willing to take such a risk. The problem here is idealists are usually poor and can't afford to the equipment and energy to do what you propose. Not to mention, I imagine that the people who would even attempt such a thing are pretty credulous to begin with and would just conclude that aliens are here already and point to fuzzy videotapes and tall-tales of area 51 as proof.

Re:SETI, and contact them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21263343)

Its too much of a risk.

Nonsense. Any civilization with the means to reach us will have no need for our resources (human or otherwise). Only a civilization which is bent on the extermination of all other intelligent life would be likely to threaten us. And if such a civilization has ever existed, it has almost certainly been put down after picking a fight with a bigger, badder civilization.

The problem here is idealists are usually poor and can't afford to the equipment and energy to do what you propose.

What a load. Even saying your hypothetical idealists exist and are the only ones who think there is a serious risk here, the equipment and energy to accomplish this is only getting less and less expensive. Give it a few generations.

Not to mention, I imagine that the people who would even attempt such a thing are pretty credulous to begin with and would just conclude that aliens are here already and point to fuzzy videotapes and tall-tales of area 51 as proof.

Or, more likely, people like Seth Shostak of SETI will try this when it becomes more affordable and when we have a better idea of where to aim.

Re:SETI, and contact them? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261599)

"What if we developed a database of systems most likely to contain life, and we started a program to send the top candidates high powered radio signals. Far fetched, but maybe it'll produce some results in 100 years."

I'll see your what if, and raise you one:

What if 50 years from now we receive a tight-beam laser transmission inviting us to join the galactic survival club and, BTW, whatever you do, don't send out radio signals to random planets, the neighborhood has been littered with alarms by the berserkers.

Uh-oh, the captcha is "deaths".

Re:SETI, and contact them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21262759)

"I already assume SETI takes finds like these into account when listening. However, is there a program around who's not intent to just listen? What if we developed a database of systems most likely to contain life, and we started a program to send the top candidates high powered radio signals. Far fetched, but maybe it'll produce some results in 100 years."

With the U.S. government being unable to make the yearly budget.. I think it will be some time before we get that organized.

An even bigger distance (1)

Cally (10873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260761)

from any one of those planets to ours... at the risk of offending the "human-colonisation-of-space" brigade, a great exercise is to try making some sort of scale representation. Like, if earth is as far from the sun as the size of a grain of sugar, how far away is this system? Hmmm, well, if we're 12 light-minutes from the sun (forgive me if I got that wrong, it's been a long time), and the parent star is 41 light years away, is that like... next door? next town? next country? Anyone?

Re:An even bigger distance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260983)

About halfway across town

The distance between the sun and earth is about 1 AU (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_unit [wikipedia.org] )
Lets assume a typical grain of sugar is about 1mm across.

((41 lightyears) / (1 AU)) * 1 mm = 2.6 kilometers

Re:An even bigger distance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21260991)

IIRC, it is 8 minutes.
So, that would mean that the other system is 2695545 times farther away. If the size of a grain of sugar is 1 millimeter, then the system is 2.7 km away (almost 1.7 miles). Probably not yet next town (but that highly depends on the area where you live.)

Re:An even bigger distance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261101)

Ahem...

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar [wikipedia.org] the typical grain size for normal granulated sugars for table use is 0.5mm.

1.3km would be the correct answer.

Re:An even bigger distance (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261125)

and the parent star is 41 light years away, is that like... next door? next town? next country?

Next town. ((41 light years) / (1 AU)) * 0.7 mm = 1.82 kilometers

You could have found out on your own I'm sure ;-)

Re:An even bigger distance (1)

cathector (972646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21263063)

i love how google handles unit conversions so nicely.

more convenient in english for once (1)

cathector (972646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21263093)

oh but this is neat,
if you use english units and assume that 1 AU = 1 inch,
then you get (1 inch / 1 au) * 41 light years = 40.9 miles,
which is kinda convenient !

ie,
if AUs are Inches, just change Light Years to Miles.

Re:An even bigger distance (1)

Samah (729132) | more than 6 years ago | (#21263499)

FYI, 1 AU is approximately 8.3 light-minutes [google.com] .

Starting to sound like flying cars.. (1)

ashitaka (27544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21260921)

The discovery of an earth-like rocky planet is always five years off.

However, at least we stand a good chance of being alive when the discovery is made. (Madly knocking wood)

Re:Starting to sound like flying cars.. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261821)

The discovery of an earth-like rocky planet is always five years off.

However, at least we stand a good chance of being alive when the discovery is made. (Madly knocking wood)


Whoa. Only a true uber-geek could masturbate to astronomy news.

- T

How far has our reach extended? (2, Interesting)

newgalactic (840363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261139)

Does anyone know how far our strongest radio signals have gone in the galaxy? I'm thinking of the movie Contact, where they stated that the opening of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin produced the first signal with a strength capable of being detected at greater distances. Is this true? And if it is, how far has that signal gone so far?

Re:How far has our reach extended? (2, Informative)

newgalactic (840363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261289)

Here's a cool website that has some of the brightest stars within 50 Light years. Here's to getting a signal in 30 or so years. http://www.atlasoftheuniverse.com/50lys.html [atlasoftheuniverse.com]

Re:How far has our reach extended? (2, Informative)

Tsuki_no_Hikari (1004963) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261557)

The 1936 Olympics were 71 years ago, 60 when Contact came out.

Television and radio signals are both part of the EM spectrum, all of which travel at C with varying levels of refraction depending on the medium it passes through.

That gives us a range of 71 light years for a civilization to have received the signal at all, and 35.5 light years if we would expect to hear a response from a civilization tomorrow.

Re:How far has our reach extended? (1)

David Gould (4938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261733)

You're far too nice. When presented with such a stupid question as "the opening of the 1936 Olympics [...] how far has that signal gone so far?", the correct answer (in 2007) is "Well, I'm no astrophysicist, but I'm guessing... about 71 light-years". Or if you wanted to be really helpful, you'd convert the distance to football-fields.

Re:How far has our reach extended? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262347)

The 1936 Olympics were 71 years ago, 60 when Contact came out.
Shirley: you mean 49 years ago, as the book was published in 1985.

Re:How far has our reach extended? (5, Informative)

ChrisA90278 (905188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262033)

Let's set, radio travels at the speed of light. In one year light travels (get's out calculator.) one light year. If there are any people there listening to Earth they are hearing what we heard in 1956.

When did we first build powerful transmitters? Comercial radio started in the 1920's so almost 90 years ago. Higher frequency VHF got beg after the war in the lat 40's when TV got popular.

Could they hear it? Only if they have invested in VERY sensitive receivers MUCH more sensitive then anything we have. Our current receivers could only hear a signal if it were from a very powerful beacon aimed right at us.

We do not currently have a system then could detect our own signals if they were coming from another star.

A perfect spot for a rebel base! (2, Funny)

primenerd (100899) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261147)

A gas giant with habitable moons. Only 41 LY away, it can't be as remote as Dantooine.

Re:A perfect spot for a rebel base! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21261229)

Fortunately, we're already conducting an exhaustive search of the surrounding systems.

Re:A perfect spot for a rebel base! (1)

guabah (968691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261427)

And it's just over 12 parsecs [google.com.pr] away. COOL!!!!

Re:A perfect spot for a rebel base! (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 6 years ago | (#21262073)

We better jump on that before the real estate developers invade. otherwise, we'll be up to our asses in telemarketters...

Re:A perfect spot for a rebel base! (1)

siwelwerd (869956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21263347)

Those aren't moons...

5 planets? (1)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21261553)

Astronomers have discovered a record-breaking fifth planet around the nearby star 55 Cancri, making it the only star aside from the sun known to have five planets.

Not to nitpick, but just so people don't go away thinking there are only 5 planets in our solar system, the sun in fact, has 8 planets currently.

Re:5 planets? (1)

verbatim_verbose (411803) | more than 6 years ago | (#21263387)

Well, the sun does in fact have 5 planets. The fact that it also happens to have a couple more doesn't change that.
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