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Theo Huxtable.

Earth-Like Planet Discovered Orbiting Nearby Star

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Earth-Like Planet Discovered Orbiting Nearby Star

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

 

WASHINGTON — For the first time astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is potentially habitable, with Earth-like temperatures, a find researchers described Tuesday as a big step in the search for "life in the universe."

 

0_61_earth_like_planet.jpg

 

The planet is just the right size, might have water in liquid form, and in galactic terms is relatively nearby at 120 trillion miles away. But the star it closely orbits, known as a "red dwarf," is much smaller, dimmer and cooler than our sun.

 

There's still a lot that is unknown about the new planet, which could be deemed inhospitable to life once more is known about it. And it's worth noting that scientists' requirements for habitability count Mars in that category: a size relatively similar to Earth's with temperatures that would permit liquid water. However, this is the first outside our solar system that meets those standards.

 

"It's a significant step on the way to finding possible life in the universe," said University of Geneva astronomer Michel Mayor, one of 11 European scientists on the team that found the planet. "It's a nice discovery. We still have a lot of questions."

 

The results of the discovery have not been published but have been submitted to the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

 

Alan Boss, who works at the Carnegie Institution of Washington where a U.S. team of astronomers competed in the hunt for an Earth-like planet, called it "a major milestone in this business."

 

The planet was discovered by the European Southern Observatory's telescope in La Silla, Chile, which has a special instrument that splits light to find wobbles in different wave lengths. Those wobbles can reveal the existence of other worlds.

 

What they revealed is a planet circling the red dwarf star, Gliese 581. Red dwarfs are low-energy, tiny stars that give off dim red light and last longer than stars like our sun. Until a few years ago, astronomers didn't consider these stars as possible hosts of planets that might sustain life.

 

The discovery of the new planet, named 581 c, is sure to fuel studies of planets circling similar dim stars. About 80 percent of the stars near Earth are red dwarfs.

 

The new planet is about five times heavier than Earth. Its discoverers aren't certain if it is rocky like Earth or if its a frozen ice ball with liquid water on the surface. If it is rocky like Earth, which is what the prevailing theory proposes, it has a diameter about 1 1/2 times bigger than our planet. If it is an iceball, as Mayor suggests, it would be even bigger.

 

Based on theory, 581 c should have an atmosphere, but what's in that atmosphere is still a mystery and if it's too thick that could make the planet's surface temperature too hot, Mayor said.

 

However, the research team believes the average temperature to be somewhere between 32 and 104 degrees and that set off celebrations among astronomers.

 

Until now, all 220 planets astronomers have found outside our solar system have had the "Goldilocks problem." They've been too hot, too cold or just plain too big and gaseous, like uninhabitable Jupiter.

 

The new planet seems just right — or at least that's what scientists think.

 

"This could be very important," said NASA astrobiology expert Chris McKay, who was not part of the discovery team. "It doesn't mean there is life, but it means it's an Earth-like planet in terms of potential habitability."

 

Eventually astronomers will rack up discoveries of dozens, maybe even hundreds of planets considered habitable, the astronomers said. But this one — simply called "c" by its discoverers when they talk among themselves — will go down in cosmic history as No. 1.

 

Besides having the right temperature, the new planet is probably full of liquid water, hypothesizes Stephane Udry, the discovery team's lead author and another Geneva astronomer. But that is based on theory about how planets form, not on any evidence, he said.

 

"Liquid water is critical to life as we know it," co-author Xavier Delfosse of Grenoble University in France, said in a statement. "Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life. On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X."

 

Other astronomers cautioned it's too early to tell whether there is water.

 

"You need more work to say it's got water or it doesn't have water," said retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran, press officer for the American Astronomical Society. "You wouldn't send a crew there assuming that when you get there, they'll have enough water to get back."

 

The new planet's star system is a mere 20.5 light years away, making Gliese 581 one of the 100 closest stars to Earth. It's so dim, you can't see it without a telescope, but it's somewhere in the constellation Libra, which is low in the southeastern sky during the midevening in the Northern Hemisphere.

 

"I expect there will be planets like Earth, but whether they have life is another question," said renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in an interview with The Associated Press in Orlando. "We haven't been visited by little green men yet."

 

Before you book your extrastellar flight to 581 c, a few caveats about how alien that world probably is: Anyone sitting on the planet would get heavier quickly, and birthdays would add up fast since it orbits its star every 13 days.

 

Gravity is 1.6 times as strong as Earth's so a 150-pound person would feel like 240 pounds.

 

But oh, the view. The planet is 14 times closer to the star it orbits. Udry figures the red dwarf star would hang in the sky at a size 20 times larger than our moon. And it's likely, but still not known, that the planet doesn't rotate, so one side would always be sunlit and the other dark.

 

Distance is another problem. "We don't know how to get to those places in a human lifetime," Maran said.

 

Two teams of astronomers, one in Europe and one in the United States, have been racing to be the first to find a planet like 581 c outside the solar system.

 

The European team looked at 100 different stars using a tool called HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher) to find this one planet, said Xavier Bonfils of the Lisbon Observatory, one of the co-discoverers.

 

Much of the effort to find Earth-like planets has focused on stars like our sun with the challenge being to find a planet the right distance from the star it orbits. About 90 percent of the time, the European telescope focused its search more on sun-like stars, Udry said.

 

A few weeks before the European discovery earlier this month, a scientific paper in the journal Astrobiology theorized a few days that red dwarf stars were good candidates.

 

"Now we have the possibility to find many more," Bonfils said.

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it'd be great if they found life outside of earth sometime in our lifetimes. i don't think they will though. if/when they do, it'll be the greatest discovery in human history.

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haha uhh i dont think an accurate description of aliens could be made from Mars Attacks

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3264662995.jpg

 

First thing I thought of.

 

That and mars attacks but Im pretty sure we're gonna get raped if this is where all those ufo sightings are based out of.[/color][/center]

 

hey theo! if you were a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theory nut,where would be the symbolism be here?!

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if i was a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theory nut,

 

first thing i would do is fold that transformers movie poster in half and find the secret illuminati message hidden within, then i would print this thread out and then fold it and determine the prophecy of the impending apocalypse. then i would fold my bedsheets and find dried cum stains which would be the symbology of my way with the wimmenz. which would tell me to take my woman to a fancy date, and walk with her down to taco bell, and then i will watch them fold a tortilla on a quesadilla, which will contain more hidden messages to be unraveled between inside the meat and cheese

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speaking of taco bell, the hot sauce talks, man. Theo, you must be the chosen one. Go talk to the hot sauce , it has wisdom, Bro!

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if i was a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theory nut,

 

first thing i would do is fold that transformers movie poster in half and find the secret illuminati message hidden within, then i would print this thread out and then fold it and determine the prophecy of the impending apocalypse. then i would fold my bedsheets and find dried cum stains which would be the symbology of my way with the wimmenz. which would tell me to take my woman to a fancy date, and walk with her down to taco bell, and then i will watch them fold a tortilla on a quesadilla, which will contain more hidden messages to be unraveled between inside the meat and cheese

 

FAIL!

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I just think this shit is intresting.

 

I deffinatly believe in life elsewhere, the universe is far too big for Earth to be the only habital planet.

 

Plus, who knows what enviorments are able to sustain life. 100 years ago we didn't think anything could live @ the bottom of the ocean, then we get down there and their is an actual ecosystem of life down there.

 

I don't know about them coming to destroy the Earth tho. If so, what could we do about it anyway ^__^.

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check out the Drake equation

N = N* fp ne fl fi fc fL

 

where N* represents the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy

fp is the fraction of stars that have planets around them

ne is the number of planets per star that are capable of sustaining life

fl is the fraction of planets in ne where life evolves

fi is the fraction of fl where intelligent life evolves

fc is the fraction of fi that communicate

fL is fraction of the planet's life during which the communicating civilizations live

 

multiply together and come up with

N, the number of communicating civilizations in the galaxy.

 

try for yourself

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hey garden hoe i msised out on the post of your chest but i heard it was really impressive care to repost?

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not so much, but you can probably find someone else who has them right-click saved to pm them to you if they feel like being nice

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thank God u dont believe evil exists,you would go too extreme on conspiracies,thus making a conspiracy out of anything.

 

everything is a conspiracy... cement is a conspiracy

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Wouldn't it be difficult for life to exsist if one half of the planet was always light and the other dark? Also it said that the planet is fourteen times closer to the star it orbits than we are to the sun, wouldn't the temperature be like three hundred degrees? Especially if there was no darkness to cool things down? Interesting find though.

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