Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Scientists Find Water on Extra-solar Planet 220

Posted by samzenpus
from the there-is-no-tea-like-space-tea dept.
amigoro writes "Scientists have, for the first time, conclusively discovered the presence of water vapour in the atmosphere of a planet beyond our Solar System, according to an article appearing in Nature. They made the discovery by analysing the transit of the gas giant HD 189733b across its star, in the Infrared using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. HD 189733b is a 'hot jupiter', a gas giant that is roughly the size and mass of Jupiter but orbits very close to the star, so no chance of life there."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Find Water on Extra-solar Planet

Comments Filter:
  • Hrrmph! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @09:56PM (#19833485) Journal
    All this talk about water on extra-solar planets. Now if they found a trapdoor, that would be something!
    • Re:Hrrmph! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Salgat (1098063) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:08PM (#19833597)
      I don't get it, what is so amazing about water on other planets? Water is simply the reaction of two rather simple and common elements, Hydrogen and Oxygen. Making water is by far not a hard task.
      • Re:Hrrmph! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @11:15PM (#19834059)
        The parent really isn't a troll.

        Hydrogen is fairly common in the universe (90% of its composition), but oxygen isn't except in and near stars (because it is only created by fusion inside the stars and ejected free by supernovas). It makes sense that gas giants will pick up traces of oxygen and then form some water and it makes sense that rocky planets will have the potential to form water since the major constituent of silicious minerals is obviously quartz or SiO2. Any rocky planet that has had some differentiation process would likely have the silicious minerals float to the top like with the Earth and thus have a great potential of having liquid water form if the atmosphere could support it. Mercury, Venus, and Mars are great examples of places where the atmosphere could not support liquid water. On one side if do not have a powerful enough geomagnetic field, the solar wind will strip the atmosphere leaving the surface bare like Mercury and Mars. On the other side, if you gas the atmosphere too much with CO2 from volcanoes, the atmosphere will superheat allowing the water vapour to rise and be broken up by UV light like on Venus. So there is a sweet spot where the Earth exists to have a rocky planet with a strong enough geomagnetic field and enough gassing by volcanoes to support the atmosphere.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kestasjk (933987)
          The planet they detected water vapor on is, apparently, close enough to its star to be molten. Maybe superheating doesn't get rid of the water vapor, maybe it's about having a magnetic field or something.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Smauler (915644)
          Ok... if hydrogen is common in the universe, and oxygen is expected near stars, why is this unexpected? It's a big planet close to a star!
          • Re:Hrrmph! (Score:5, Funny)

            by hazem (472289) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @07:21AM (#19836113) Journal
            It's not so much that it's unexpected. Theory predicts the existence of water on planets. This is just conclusive confirmation... which is pretty cool.

            Kind of like how theoretically, in spite of being a male who reads slashdot, I should be able to get laid. It's just pretty cool when I get conclusive proof of that theory.
        • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @07:31AM (#19836157) Journal
          Well, you're right about Earth being a statistic improbability of many factors being just right, but methinks you're slightly wrong about Venus. Which is somewhat of a pity, since Venus is the perfect illustration of how many factors must be just right to get an Earth instead of a Venus.

          On Venus too, it was the magnetic field -- or rather, lack thereof -- that did it. It's not just that some water gets split into hydrogen and oxygen, in which case it would just recombine sooner or later. It's that on Venus the lack of magnetic field allowed the solar winds to gradually wipe away the hydrogen. Venus is heavy enough to hold on th the slightly heavier elements, like Oxygen and Carbon anyway, even without a magnetic field. Hydrogen is a different story.

          Outgassing CO2, well:

          1. Earth spewed enough of that too, which is how it thawed back when cyanobacteria turned the atmosphere to O2 and the whole planet got deep frozen. (The Sun started a lot "cooler" and gradually warmed up. _Now_ it's warm enough to support life without a greenhouse effect, but in the beginning it wasn't.) I don't think there is any evidence that Venus spewed much more CO2 than Earth. On Earth just a lot of it got, well, buried right back. Say, in the Carboniferous era coal deposits.

          The somewhat interesting corolary is that if we had too _little_ outgassing, then we'd have been really screwed. It took, IIRC, some 30% CO2 in the air to thaw that snowball Earth. Too little of it, and the deep freeze might just have continued long enough to be a total extinction event. Or at the very least a 1 billion year (or maybe more) pause in life evolution until the sun output went up some more.

          2. Earth's original atmosphere was _methane_, which is a greenhouse gas about 200 times more potent than CO2. So if Venus would have been screwed by its outgassed CO2 atmosphere, the Earth should have been screwed 200 times harder (or close enough. Well over 100 times anyway.) In practice, that atmosphere on Earth just helped keep it warm enough at a time when the Sun was a lot weaker. If Venus had had a CO2 atmosphere at the time, well, it would have been a frozen snowball, quite the opposite of boiling off its water. In practice, it's a lot more likely that Venus started with a mostly Methane atmosphere too, only the hydrogen was swept away whenever some of it got broken up.

          Pretty much if you start with water, methane and CO2, and continuously lose hydrogen, you end up with just the oxygen and carbon left, which means a lot of CO2. That's likely the short story of what happened on Venus.

          3. There's an interesting extra factor there, which could have doomed Earth anyway, and that is: timing. If life or photosynthesis had started any later, for example, that methane and CO2 atmosphere would have sealed its fate. As I was saying methane is an _extremely_ potent greenhouse gas, so given enough extra time of gradually increasing solar output, it would have just boiled off the oceans. No liquid water, no life, game over.
        • On the other side, if you gas the atmosphere too much with CO2 from volcanoes, the atmosphere will superheat.

          Volcanoes? That's impossible! Al Gore told me that excess CO2 can only come from SUVs.

          • pebfab (Score:3, Insightful)

            by benhocking (724439)
            I.e., problem exists between fish and brain. You must have had the babel fish inserted the wrong way, because Gore never said that. I realize that's supposed to be a joke, but to me, it's about as funny as "super serial" or "manbearpig".
          • Yes and no (Score:3, Informative)

            by Moraelin (679338)

            Volcanoes? That's impossible! Al Gore told me that excess CO2 can only come from SUVs.

            Well, yes and no. Volcanoes do spew all sorts of stuff into the air, the question is just how much of it.

            Thawing up snowball earth I mentioned before took up to 30 million years, and that's with zero photosynthesis or other processes getting it out of the air again. So we're talking geologic timescales. Admittedly that required accumulating some 13% CO2 in the air (looks like I was remembering wrong when I said 30% before)

            • Actually, scratch the division by 100 years, or the result doesn't even have the right units. So it would need a little under 100,000 years, not a little under 1000 years.

              Just shows I shouldn't write in a hurry, and I definitely should engage the brains first.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by arazor (55656)
        You try making water when your prostate is the size of grapefruit! Then we can talk about how making water is not difficult.
  • hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @09:59PM (#19833513) Homepage
    Scientists Find Water on Extra-solar Planet

    The only extra solar planet I know of is Pluto, and we've already had that discussion.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:00PM (#19833525) Homepage Journal
    The arrogance of thinking that we're the only possible form of life is ludicrous.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bad D.N.A. (753582)
      The arrogance of thinking that we're the only possible form of life is ludicrous.

      I'm sure that Ludacris's response to that would be your too white and nerdy
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm sure that Ludacris's response to that would be your too white and nerdy


        you're foo, not your. "Is our children learning?" how

        you're = you are. your = possessive

        back to skool foo, before I bust a cap in yo ass.
    • by dsanfte (443781)
      And yet it may indeed be that ours is the easiest, and therefore most likely, form of life to get started.
      • by trolltalk.com (1108067) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @11:23PM (#19834115) Homepage Journal

        "And yet it may indeed be that ours is the easiest, and therefore most likely, form of life to get started."

        o argument about it. Its a lot easier than, say, building a car. A car requires over 3,000 pieces - to make a human only requires 2 bumpers and a connecting rod.

        • by Basehart (633304)
          "A car requires over 3,000 pieces - to make a human only requires 2 bumpers and a connecting rod."

          Ah, now I know what Grace Jones meant when she sang "pull up to the bumper baby".

          I thought she was singing about being a Race Queen or something.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by alexj33 (968322)
      But just because you find the idea "ludicrous" or offensive doesn't make it more true/false one iota.

      It could very well be that the "arrogant" or offensive answer is the right one. The total lack of any evidence for extraterrestrial life, intelligent or otherwise, should be a strong indicator that we are very, very alone.
      • by Ihlosi (895663)
        The total lack of any evidence for extraterrestrial life, intelligent or otherwise, should be a strong indicator that we are very, very alone.

        After having a couple of blind guys wearing boxing gloves comb through this haystack, we conclude that there are no needles in it.

        Seriously, though - our tools for looking for extraterrestrial life (let alone outside our solar system) are still exceptionally crude. We can't even reliably find earth-sized planets outside the solar systems yet - we need pure luck for t

    • Who isn't to say we are the first intelligent and that now in parallel a lot is appearing ? Nothing. We can't draw conclusion either way right now. It is pure arrogance to go either way (we are alone (aka: we are the first)/ we are not alone). Both are as ludicrous as you put it.
    • by master_p (608214)
      We have to get rid of thousands of years of anthropocentric views though. Just watch any kid between 1 and 5 years old...he/she things he/she owns the world, and that everything that happens is about him/her. Thinking we are the center of the universe is imprinted in our genes, for survival reasons...it's hard to get over it.
    • by Himring (646324)
      True. I've heard of people who go out to events and parties and such. At those places there's these things called "girls." I know, I know. This is hard for /.ers to comprehend, but it's true....
  • by MutantEnemy (545783) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:00PM (#19833529) Homepage
    You mean no chance of life as we know it...
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:08PM (#19833601) Homepage
      Which brings up the question, "what is life?". For millenium we've considered ourselves chosen by god, or at least special among all the animals on earth. However, what if we found another form of life that was as intelligent as we are? What if we found one that was more intelligent. How are we even sure that what we're looking for is going to be anything like us. Who says there won't be a race the size of Smurfs on some other planet. Who says there's no way you could have animals that think and act like humans yet get their energy from the sun and breath carbon dioxide like plants do.
      • by Bad D.N.A. (753582) <baddna@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:38PM (#19833851)
        Dude... Your preaching to the choir.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by robgig1088 (1043362)
        Why stop there? Who claimed that said beings would even need to be cellular organisms? Perhaps there is some sort of alternative form of existence that we simply haven't considered that would enable life (in some form or another) in even the most severe conditions. Life will find a way.
      • But that's just because I think Cthulhu is cool.

        Anyway, a race of intelligent squids would probably NEVER be found by us (barring FTL drives). Their environment just would not be able to support the technology needed to communicate with us over inter-stellar distances. They could not send to us, they could not receive from us.

        And there aren't many options for them developing a space program of their own.

        Given that OUR planet is at least a 2nd generation world (coalesced from a previous sun's death), how man
      • by Gazzonyx (982402)
        Let me just throw this out there... what if we are the most intelligent in all the universe? The very idea terrifies and intrigues me at the same moment. Philosophical thoughts aside, imagine us as the alpha-males (erm... alpha-geeks, this is slashdot) of the universe.
        • by hondo77 (324058)
          I saw an interview with Arthur C. Clarke where this came up. He said something along the lines of, "It's infinitely improbable. Then again, somebody has to be first."
          • by Gazzonyx (982402)

            I saw an interview with Arthur C. Clarke where this came up. He said something along the lines of, "It's infinitely improbable. Then again, somebody has to be first."
            Great quote! I guess I just hope, if there is life out there, that we can choose to be followers instead of being forced to be leaders.
    • by master_p (608214)
      Indeed, Jim.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:04PM (#19833559)
    Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and oxygen is the third most common (helium, the second, is inert).

    The most common heteroatomic molecule is likely to be water...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Le Marteau (206396)
      No, it's not surprising. No one is saying it is a 'surprise'. It's just that water has never been detected outside of our planet, scientifically, and that's kind of cool.
      • by Quietust (205670)

        It's just that water has never been detected outside of our planet, scientifically, and that's kind of cool.
        Not even the polar icecaps on Mars, or the tenuous amounts of water vapor in its atmosphere?

        Presumably, you meant "outside of our solar system", which would probably be a bit more accurate.
        • by Cadallin (863437)
          Even more accurate would be to say, water on a planet that is outside of our solar system. Water has been known to exist in interstellar clouds for decades.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:08PM (#19833595)
    HD 189733b is a gas giant planet with 1.15 times the mass of Jupiter and 1.26 its diameter. It orbits its primary in only 2.219 days and in a distance of 0.0313 AU. This is one of the closest planet-star systems known. The planet's surface temperature is 920 kelvin on the poles and 1220 kelvin on the bright side.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jollyreaper (513215)

      HD 189733b is a gas giant planet with 1.15 times the mass of Jupiter and 1.26 its diameter. It orbits its primary in only 2.219 days and in a distance of 0.0313 AU. This is one of the closest planet-star systems known. The planet's surface temperature is 920 kelvin on the poles and 1220 kelvin on the bright side.

      Have they come up with a theory on how such planets could form? The last time I read up on this stuff, before they discovered extra-solar planets, the idea was that a star like Sol had an accretion disk that was spread along the solar plane thanks to centrifugal force. The solar wind helped push much of the lighter gases out to the far edges and the heavier, rockier material stayed closer to the inside. Due to the influences of gravity and other forces, you tended to see matter bunch up in concentric circl

      • I think the formation theory you mentioned is still pretty much accepted. I think the close orbiting gas giants are thought to migrate inward through gravitational interactions with other objects around the star. Perhaps this is the normal result if a young star has a much thicker protoplanetary disk than Sol did.
        • I think the formation theory you mentioned is still pretty much accepted. I think the close orbiting gas giants are thought to migrate inward through gravitational interactions with other objects around the star. Perhaps this is the normal result if a young star has a much thicker protoplanetary disk than Sol did.
          What could cause the migration, even larger giants at the edge of the system?
    • The planet's surface temperature is 920 kelvin on the poles and 1220 kelvin on the bright side.


      Welcome to "Planet Sauna" - Where a week is like 3 years, and it never rains. Humidity 90%. Heat Index, 980K. Don't forget to have your air conditioning serviced regularly!

  • by ThePopeLayton (868042) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:10PM (#19833611)

    so no chance of life there.

    This is a pretty bold statement. Scientist predicted that life couldn't survive in a number of environments on earth, yet it has been found in each one:

    1- In lakes frozen hundreds of meters down in antarctica
    2- In the dept of the ocean where NO light permeates
    3- Next to Volcanic openings in the earths crust were tempuratues are well over 800 degress c
    4- In the highly acidic and poisionus ponds in Yellowstone National Park

    I am sure that there are more but I can't think of any.

    So for some scientist to say that there can't be life, I just have to role my eyes. One thing that I have learned about life is that life will find away. So just because we can't concieve of the possible forms that life might take its a little presumputous for us to assume that it can't exist.

    Earth is a small speck in the universe, it doesn't matter if you believe in God or not but to assume that life, as we know it on this planet, is the only form and location of life in the universe is a very ignorant view point.

    I am of the firm conviction that as soon as we have the technology to explores these remote and hostile locations we will find things that we haven't even dreamed could exist.

    So to get off my little soapbox here; if there is water there is probably life, and just because the conditions on the planet don't fit are current formula for life doesn't mean that our formula is correct.
    • by irtza (893217)
      I agree wwith this sentiment as I think many others here would as well. One thing that many people seem to forget is that life replicates. All it takes is one self replicating particle to be made and it will propogate and fill up its environment
    • by turing_m (1030530)
      "So for some scientist to say that there can't be life, I just have to role my eyes."

      IF NOT (SELECT is_there_life FROM scientist WHERE name = 'Tinetti')
          CREATE ROLE eyes;
      END IF;

      In fairness, I think that's just a bad paraphrasing. "This is a far from habitable world," if you RTA.
    • by bahwi (43111) <incoming.josephguhlin@com> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:52PM (#19833937) Homepage
      You've mistaken the poster for the scientist
      "so no chance of life there"

      but in the article it clearly says:
      "This is a far from habitable world," she adds.

      Which means it's a no for us. As well:
      "Although the planet is an unlikely candidate in the search for life"

      Which is no the same as "no chance"

      Your post makes perfect sense but to assume that it is a scientist saying that there can't be life is incorrect.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      I am sure that there are more but I can't think of any.

            In your intestines. This is also not a very "friendly" environment, considering it's full of digestive enzymes. Yet life thrives.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mousit (646085)
      > I am sure that there are more but I can't think of any.

      Hell, there are microbes that live and thrive in the heart of nuclear reactors, surviving both the heat and the radiation with ease. They'd be just the type to find a hot planet ultra-close to the sun a paradise..
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      NOOO! Life can ONLY exist at a Earth-sized planet with a mean temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius and where it's made of around 70% of water! FFS! ;-)
    • Scientist predicted that life couldn't survive in a number of environments on earth, yet it has been found in each one:

      1- In lakes frozen hundreds of meters down in antarctica
      2- In the dept of the ocean where NO light permeates
      3- Next to Volcanic openings in the earths crust were tempuratues are well over 800 degress c
      4- In the highly acidic and poisionus ponds in Yellowstone National Park


      I think the problem is not that life is unable to adapt so that it can survive in these extreme environments. The proble
  • by GreggBz (777373) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:11PM (#19833617) Homepage
    The new company is called Space2ohh (TM). Clean, pure, out of this world refreshment.

    I'm seeking venture capital.

  • "conclusively"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by irtza (893217) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @10:11PM (#19833623) Homepage
    First, let me state that I am not a chemist, so if there is someone who can do a better job of putting this into laymens term, I would be happy. with that said, how can we be sure its not the interaction of multiple molecules causing this or that this isn't a yet undiscovered molecule leading to this effect? I'm a bit wary of any indirrect measurement, so if someone with the proper background wishes to do some enlightenment, I'd be more than happy to read (even references would be nice).
  • Have the urge to go take a leak?
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @11:13PM (#19834045) Journal
    When they detect beer on another planet, THEN, we'll be talking!
  • If they can find a heat sink, then one can run a steam power station there and with some long wires, we can solve our energy crisis...
  • Its not water... Its just pictures we think are water

Brain off-line, please wait.

Working...