Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Astronomers Announce 5-Planet System 145

Posted by kdawson
from the looking-for-something-rockier dept.
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.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Astronomers Announce 5-Planet System

Comments Filter:
  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:37PM (#21260365) Journal
    When I first saw this headline, I gasped. They already eliminated Pluto - what ELSE could they disqualify!?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Anything that can't support life is a rock, oceball or gas giant. Not worthy of the title 'planet'
      • by Cecil (37810)
        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.
    • by e2d2 (115622)
      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.
      • 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?
  • More news (Score:5, Funny)

    by Skiron (735617) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:42PM (#21260421) Homepage
    "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?"
  • by teh moges (875080) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:43PM (#21260431) Homepage
    Our solar system has more then that...
    • 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? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch@ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:44PM (#21260435) Journal
    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evwah (954864)
      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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:38PM (#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 :-)

    • Besides some detection methods rely on the time a planet goes around its sun, so the further the planet from its sun, the longer the detection takes. Planets like Earth need 3 years of continuous watching, even if their size matches Jupiter.
      So, the sentence would be: every year we detect planets farther and father from their sun, and we just reached the necessary time of finding planets in the habitable zone.

  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:47PM (#21260479) Journal

    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.
    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      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

    • 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 w

      • by cperciva (102828) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:59PM (#21261237) Homepage
        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MtViewGuy (197597)
      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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:48PM (#21260485) Homepage Journal
    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.

    • by imsabbel (611519) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:00PM (#21260597)
      At least after we send our greeting, it will take 2 or 3 generations for the extermination fleet to arrive....
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ashitaka (27544)
        The current generation always dumps their problems on the following generations.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by uniquename72 (1169497)
        Not if we send our greeting in the form of an extermination fleet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 4D6963 (933028)

      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

      • by QuantumG (50515)
        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?
    • 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.
    • It may be impossible to travel to other stars, but we don't know that for certain. We have to try, and then declare it impossible.

      If there is a way to travel to other stars though, it would be the greatest thing ever happened to mankind.
      • by 4D6963 (933028)

        It may be impossible to travel to other stars, but we don't know that for certain. We have to try, and then declare it impossible.

        Oh God, did you even think before you pulled that one out? Of course we do not have to "try" to find out it's "impossible", we know damn well what we can or can't do and the thing is as of now we couldn't send a probe to another star in a timely manner, let alone astronauts. "Trying" would be like trying to simulate the folding of proteins with a DEC PDP-1. We just can't do tha

        • by master_p (608214)
          I did not say we have to try interstellar travel now. What I said is that we have to try to find the technology which will enable us to try interstellar travel tomorrow.

    • by thealsir (927362)
      And thankfully, I like to be realistic. Who says that these things cannot occur?

      My position is one of neutrality; I believe it's possible, but I need to be shown the money before definitely confirming it as true. But there's just so much us humans are limited to in terms of perspective that I caution from saying something is absolutely or even most likely not possible.
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @06:51PM (#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?
  • 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!
  • So we can Stargate there
    • Walking bird, standing dog, big eye, big eye.
      • by jamstar7 (694492)
        That's only half of it.

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

        • by Zenaku (821866)
          That's still not right, you can't have "big eye" in there twice. Each of the first 6 symbols identifies a unique point in space, denoting the endpoints of three line segments which intersect at the target location. The seventh is the symbol for the point you are dialing from.

          Ugh. I feel dirty for being compelled to point this out.
        • Um, this gate doesn't support SGv6. Please use an SGv6->SGv4 tunnel.
  • by newgalactic (840363) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:17PM (#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.
    • 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.
      • 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.
        • The problem is that it's highly likely that the PTB's will cut the funding for this project shortly after it gets started. We'll only have enough time to send out a few seconds of signal. Some poor sap at the other end will draw a circle around the printed representation of the signal and scribble the equivalent of "Wow" in the margin. And that will be the end of it. oh well.
      • by jamstar7 (694492) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:32PM (#21262055)
        Upside, they're now watching the original Star Trek in its first run.

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

        • by cnettel (836611)
          Worst, they already know about the carbomite maneuver.
        • Turn that around, and we have the new alien scare: "Aliens want to invade your planet and not only sleep with your women, but deliver CORNY MONOLOGUES!!"
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @07:54PM (#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.
      • by frankie (91710)

        self-preservation instinct of any successful race will dictate that no one will begin transmitting like crazy to suspect systems

        Umm... I guess you must have missed the 70s, because been there, done that [wikipedia.org].

        Don't worry though, I'm sure we'll have space defenses built up some time in the next 50000 years. And if not, we really weren't going to get very far in the galaxy anyways.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "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 berserker

  • 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?
    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      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 ;-)

  • 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: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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
  • 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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by newgalactic (840363)
      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: (Score:2, Informative)

      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.
      • by David Gould (4938)
        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.

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        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.
    • by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @09:30PM (#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.
      • by mcvos (645701)

        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.

        Exactly. SETI wouldn't be able to detect Earth from 0.5 lightyears away. Broadcast transmissions are as good as undetectable over interstellar distances.

  • A gas giant with habitable moons. Only 41 LY away, it can't be as remote as Dantooine.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Fortunately, we're already conducting an exhaustive search of the surrounding systems.
    • by guabah (968691)
      And it's just over 12 parsecs [google.com.pr] away. COOL!!!!
    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      We better jump on that before the real estate developers invade. otherwise, we'll be up to our asses in telemarketters...
    • by siwelwerd (869956)
      Those aren't moons...
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Rocky planets are usually found closer to the star than the gas giants - the heat from the the young star will make lighter elements evaporate, you see. So if this planet
    • by mcvos (645701)

      Rocky planets are usually found closer to the star than the gas giants - the heat from the the young star will make lighter elements evaporate, you see.

      The sample for rocky planets being closer to the sun than gas giants is really small: just us. There are a lot of systems out there with gas giants in very close orbits around their sun, however. So basically, we have no idea where rocky planets are in your average solar system, or how common they should be. We have a lot of theories about the formation o

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long

Working...