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Space

New Telescope Hunts for Earth Sized Planets 104

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the do-you-see-what-i-see dept.
TENxOXR writes "The French-led Corot mission has taken off from Kazakhstan on a quest to find planets outside our Solar System. The space telescope will monitor about 120,000 stars for tiny dips in brightness that result from planets passing across their faces. The multinational mission will also study the stars directly to uncover more about their interior behavior."
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New Telescope Hunts for Earth-Sized Planets

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  • by Kenrod (188428)
    Borat joke in 5...4...3...2...1
  • .....Interstellar Learnings of The Univers for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
    • Actually this is just phase one. But, without the French-led Corot mission leading the way, how are you going to get the donkey in to orbit? Sticks don't always do it you know.
  • I really need to lay off the coffee or something, 'cause I read "looking for Earth sized Plants". I thought "Dude! that's one big plant". Okay, back to work now...
    • by Kris_B_04 (883011)
      I'm glad I'm not the only one...
      Perhaps there was too much "egg nog" over the weekend.. *grin*
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:14PM (#17378990)
    They shouldn't bother looking for any Pluto-sized planets - there aren't any.
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      Duh ;)

      And even if they were still defined as planets, I wouldn't be too interested in having them wasting efforts in finding those as they'll probably have trouble holding an atmosphere to harbor life anyway. And it's terrestrial planets I'm personally most interested in here. Actually, this kind of space science is what I find most interesting at the moment, given what we can do.
      • Re:A time-saving tip (Score:4, Interesting)

        by E++99 (880734) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:51PM (#17379372) Homepage
        I wouldn't be too interested in having them wasting efforts in finding those as they'll probably have trouble holding an atmosphere to harbor life anyway.


        This kind of reasoning is ubiquitous, but it always bothers me. We only know of one kind of life (terrestrial life), but even that kind of life doesn't require a gaseous atmosphere. Only certain terrestrial species require an atmosphere. Even those species, such as mammals, reptiles, and birds, only require an atmosphere after birth, and get along just fine without it up until then. So on the one hand, assuming that all life is very similar to terrestrial life, I find nothing to suggest that an atmosphere is vital. But on the other hand, seeing that we only have knowledge of terrestrial life, extrapolating at all from that knowledge to the supposed "requirements for life" is not reasonable.
        • Although, besides breathing purposes, our atmosphere also protects us from harmful radiation from the sun, as well as protecting the planet from impacts from most stellar objects.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bhiestand (157373)

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

            Right, but what does that have to do with possible requirements for alien life? Certainly life as we know it, based on DNA/RNA, can not generally do well in an environment with excess radiation, but that does not mean that DNA is the only way to code life. Hell, a planet with a much higher concentration of lead, and lead on the surface, could result in creatures with an exoskeleton made of lead (or gold, for that matter).

            All of the above scenarios make it possible for life forms to exist on the surface o

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

              Although without an atmosphere I'd be surprised if more than simple microbial lifeforms developed.
        • No atmosphere == no liquid water.

          In fact, no atmosphere == no liquid anything.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by E++99 (880734)
            No atmosphere == no liquid water.

            In fact, no atmosphere == no liquid anything.

            That's a good point, but it only applies to surface liquids. Now, I suppose that if there is literally *no* atmosphere, then over time you will lose whatever gas/liquid resources you start with. But as a matter of organism survival, any solid planet with geological processes is going have plenty of opportunity for subterranean liquid and gas.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            Europa is an example of something that has no atmosphere, but does have liquid water under the ice. You're right to think that there has to be something to contain the liquid, so that it doesn't boil off into space, but solid works just as well as gas for that task.
        • by DinZy (513280)
          Of course mammals require an atmosphere while in the womb, the mothers must respirate. Besides that physics, ie liquid/vapor/vacuum/solid equilibrium all but requires an atmosphere to have any chance at sustaining life. Stable temperature is not possible in a vacuum unless it is constantly being illuminated by a sun, ie if the planet does not rotate. In that case though the hot side of the planet would be very inhospitable to weak organic molecules. Sure you could argue that an ice world with very little
        • If a planet has an atmosphere, it's possible that life on that planet will cause it to be in a non-equilibrium state (chemically speaking). This is something that would not be too hard to detect from earth (i.e. lots of oxygen in an atmosphere won't last long w/out life). Our efforts should therefore be focussed on what we can, in principle, detect.

          Could silicon-based life inhabit the lithosphere of a planet? Maybe so. Could there be life deep inside stellar cores or gas giants? Why not? But we don
          • If a planet has an atmosphere, it's possible that life on that planet will cause it to be in a non-equilibrium state (chemically speaking). This is something that would not be too hard to detect from earth (i.e. lots of oxygen in an atmosphere won't last long w/out life). Our efforts should therefore be focussed on what we can, in principle, detect.

            This is the thinking that led James Lovelock [wikipedia.org] to formulate his Gaia Hypothesis [wikipedia.org]. His basic premise is that you can discover life on a planet without going t

          • Just for you to know life without oxygen existed on earth before oxygen life.
            The swing over to oxygen breading bacteria is even a bit less understood part in science
            since oxygen is naturaly highly oxidative and destroys (like burns) most things.
            over time life had evolved and learned how to use it.
            But it never started with oxygen life.
            So for all those planets out there with no oxygen there is a chance there is life too.
  • Nice surprise! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:16PM (#17379010) Journal
    I wasn't aware of this mission at all, and was just sitting here waiting for the James Webb Telescope, the Terrestrial Planet Finder observatories, or the Kepler mission.
    Btw, of those, NASA's Kepler telescope is the earliest from the space agency, scheduled for launch in October 2008.
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      Oh oh, I knew there was at least one more -- ESA's Darwin project. It's possible NASA's TPF and ESA's Darwin project will end up as a collaboration though, given the similarities in goals. I wouldn't be against that; better put your money bags together to make something awesome than do separate half-assed jobs. ;-)
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:30PM (#17379172)
    When it comes to space launches, no nation beats Russia on cost, reliability and efficiency. One thing still bothers me...why haven't the US or EU nations been successful on this front? There are huge sums of money to be made but the Russians still beat us (the USA) in this game. Why?
    • by dingen (958134)
      The EU nations not successful? The Corot is an ESA mission!
      • by bogaboga (793279)

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

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

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

      Sure, the Americans and Europeans have better technology but it isn't being used. The rockets that are flying are still 60's tech, mostly military derivations at at that. Maybe when SpaceShipThree and it's counterparts start getting into the game, it will be different. For now, no one does 60's space tech better than the Russians.
      • by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @02:43PM (#17380080)

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

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

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

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

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

        • by TempeTerra (83076)
          The Russians on the other hand, just do their thing. Remember when they were the ONLY link to the ISS? They did not blow their trumpets one bit. If it were the Americans it would be a different story.
          I don't intend to disagree with you, but I'm on an anti-big-media bender at the moment. If, hypothetically, the Russians were blowing their own trumpet, who would tell you about it? CNN? ABC? Fox?
        • "You probably would not even appreciate the fact that the ISS would be a failure if the Russians were not involved."

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

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

        The rockets flying today are based on/derived from 60's military tech in roughly the same way that a 2006 Corvette is based on/derived from the Corvettes of the 1960's - I.E. only in the vaguest of ways.
    • When it comes to space launches, no nation beats Russia on cost, reliability and efficiency.

      The facts don't support your assertion at all. Russia's has had many recent launch failures. Here is a short list.

      • http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11613181
      • http://www.space.com/news/proton_explainer_99120 6.html
      • http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/060726_dnep r_failure.html
      • http://russianforces.org/blog/2005/06/molniyam_l aunch_failure.shtml
      • http://www.nerc.ac.uk/press/releases/2005/cryosa tlost.asp

      US Atlas and

    • Russians wil works for much less money. Same reason China beats the US when it come to making shoes.
    • When it comes to space launches, no nation beats Russia on cost, reliability and efficiency.

      Nor, except on cost, does Russia beat any other nation. Their LOV [loss of vehicle] rate hovers right around 1% - the same as the US and the EU.

      One thing still bothers me...why haven't the US or EU nations been successful on this front? There are huge sums of money to be made but the Russians still beat us (the USA) in this game. Why?

      No, there aren't really huge sums of money to be made - as the cu

    • by argStyopa (232550)
      Of course the easy answer is that they don't care as much about safety, which is balderdash. You think Russians don't care as much about their lives as anyone else? Obviously, they do.

      No, I think anyone with familiarity with the space programs of both the "west" and the Soviets...er....Russians would say that reliability is one of their strong points - once the technology has been established. For various reasons, the 'western' space agencies are always improving and tinkering, while the Russian space pr
    • Sorry to say Russia has a big funding problem.
      Altough it had more advanced rocket designs then NASA (turbo charged rockets).
      These days there is not much left over from this kosmonaut space agencie

      NASA has its money problems too that space shuttle costs just to much
      It takes away lots of money from other science projects.

      ESA is quite commercial has not realy a funding problem, they often launch small scale science missions. Overall ESA has launched lots of missions but its not publicing it that much as NASA d
  • Far as I know, the amount of water on the surface of the Earth is vital to life as we know it. The water keeps the temperature relatively even across the entire globe. This is especially important because it keeps the day side cool and the night side warm.

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

    TLF
  • "It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the univese can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole universie is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to
    • by MollyB (162595)
      I notice that this entire mishmash of faulty syllogisms is enclosed in quotation marks. Could the OP satisfy the curious and reveal whom is being quoted?

      If this is a troll, I bit, haul me in...
    • by zesty42 (1041348)
      very interesting, but stupid.
    • Douglas Adams carefully ignored the fact that infinity doesn't work like that. Even if 99% of an infinite number of planets are uninhabited, that still leaves an infinite number of planets inhabited. It sounds weird, I know, but there's lots about infinity that's counterintuitive.
  • even if... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @01:52PM (#17379378)
    even if a planet was found that could support life we will never be able to get there, at least not until "Faster than light-speed" space travel is possible, will i highly doubt will ever happen...
    • Precisely, unless they are on an intercept orbit with the Earth,
      who cares???
    • There's always the much-used-in-sci-fi suspended animation / freezing and then awakening when we get there. Providing the ship computer could be trusted to run flawlessly for the centuries with no human interaction. (Insert obligatory Windows joke here...)
    • by silentounce (1004459) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @02:16PM (#17379784) Homepage
      Generation ship [wikipedia.org]
    • by JohnFluxx (413620)
      If we had a ship that went close to the speed of light, we could get to the stars pretty quickly - in days (for the passengers) if the ship was fast enough.
      • Days?

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

        • by JohnFluxx (413620)
          To us here on earth, it takes the light 4.2 years. But to light itself, it takes no time at all.

          If we travelled close enough to the speed of light, to people on earth it would appear to take a time approaching 4.2 years. To the people in spaceship, it will take a time approaching zero time.
          • Hmmmm.... Ah, yes, twin paradox [wikipedia.org]. Sorry, I've always been under the impression that those 4.2 years would have been for the light itself. Still, "a matter of days" is still a bit of an overstatement when you look at the wikipedia "Specific Example" ( 0.866 speed of light, which isn't bad at all). I still don't call "2.57 years" a mere "days".
            • by JohnFluxx (413620)
              It's not an overstatement since I didn't specify what percentage of the speed of light:

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

              So 99.999% of the speed of light would get you there in 6.5 days. I'd call that "mere days".
          • But to light itself, it takes no time at all.

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

            Can anyone enlighten me about this?
            • by JohnFluxx (413620)
              There's several things going on here.

              The first is that the statement " the speed of light is slower in other materials based on their refractive index" is actually misleading. It's more that the light _always_ travels at speed c, but keeps getting absorbed and then re-emitted by atoms. This absorbed-delay-re-emit makes the _average_ speed below c. But at any particular time, the light is travelling at speed c, or is instead converted to kinetic energy in an atom. Thus you don't get any time dilation
  • *I* know where an Earth-sized planet is. The suspense is killing me, but I'm not tellin'. I'm just going to let everybody wrack their brains for a while. Seriously, you're all going to kick yourselves when you find out... *chuckle*
  • http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/A/anthro pomorphism.html [daviddarling.info] It is really scary when scientists *never* think outside the box...
  • There is a better article about COROT over at the new scientist web site. http://www.newscientist.com/home.ns [newscientist.com]
  • I like planet, I like sex! Is nice!

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