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Space Science

Solar System Look-Alike Found 114

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the evil-twin dept.
SpuriousLogic writes "Astronomers have discovered a planetary system orbiting a distant star which looks much like our own. They found two planets that were close matches for Jupiter and Saturn orbiting a star about half the size of our Sun. Martin Dominik, from St Andrews University in the UK, said the finding suggested systems like our own could be much more common than we thought."
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Solar System Look-Alike Found

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  • by the_humeister (922869) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:50PM (#22993948)
    But wait! I'm the one with the goatee. Does that mean I'm the evil one???
    • by gdog05 (975196)
      I really hope we're the evil ones, because if we're the nice ones.....whew! We're in trouble. Of course there's a chance that Kodos and Kang have enslaved all of them.
    • by Belial6 (794905) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:14PM (#22994160)
      If your the one with goatse... Yes, you are the evil one.

      Ohhhh! goatEE. Never mind.
    • by c0p0n (770852)
      No, as long as your counterpart has got a goatse on his face instead.
    • by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:57PM (#22994578)

      This solar system looks like ours, but it's only half our size.

      My theory is that we're both evil (like Doctor Evil and Mini-Me).

    • good or evil, they will be our midget mirror counterparts-their solar system being approximately half the size and all
      • Awesome, I was starting to worry I might not be able to tell them apart if I got drunk and wandered into the wrong one. How awkward would that be? "Sorry, I thought you were the evil version of my neighbor's wife, my mistake."
      • midget


        Um... little person.
    • Nah, a goatee used to make you look evil, but now only makes you look like a disaffected member of generation X.
      • Nah, a goatee used to make you look evil, but now only makes you look like a disaffected member of generation X.

        Old lady - OMG, here comes another Gen X'er with a goatee and a Soundgarden tat on his arm! Run for your lives!
        Gen X'er - But ma'am, wouldn't you like to buy some of my homemade cookies for charity to the blind?
        Old lady - Shoo! Go away, you filthy slacker, or I'm yelling "rape"!

        When will this cruel, pointless discrimination end? And who's the evil mutant in this little parable, eh?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Johnny5000 (451029)

          Old lady - OMG, here comes another Gen X'er with a goatee and a Soundgarden tat on his arm! Run for your lives!
          Gen X'er - But ma'am, wouldn't you like to buy some of my homemade cookies for charity to the blind?
          Old lady - Shoo! Go away, you filthy slacker, or I'm yelling "rape"!

          When will this cruel, pointless discrimination end? And who's the evil mutant in this little parable, eh?

          Ooh, ooh, I know this one.

          A. March 5th, 2015
          B. It's the old lady, right?

  • A bit of a reach (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bovius (1243040) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:50PM (#22993950)
    I'm sorry, I have trouble whenever whenever an astronomer suggests that something they found "may be much more common than we thought." One observation does not mean way more common. It jumps the gap from "purely theoretical" to "proven possible", and in the data set of the known universe really isn't enough to make any type of assertion about commonality.

    Yes, I know, our solar system makes it two.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It certainly eliminates the "uniqueness" we thought our solar system was. So yes, 2 is more common than we previously thought.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        So yes, 2 is more common than we previously thought.

        Because a star is "just like ours" if it has 50% of the mass?

        I'm sorry, this story is a ridiculous piece of over-reaching. A star half the size of ours will have, off the cuff, maybe 1/4th the light output. How big is that habitable zone going to be?
        • The first thing I thought when I read the summary: "two gas planets + a half-size sun != similar to our solar system."
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by CorSci81 (1007499)
            Actually, considering the range of sizes stars can have, a factor of 2 is pretty damn close in the astronomical world.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              Saying that "a factor of 2 is pretty damn close in the astronomical world" is right, but it proves how unlikely it is that we'll find another solar system "just like ours." If astronomers think that being off by 50% is a discovery worth announcing worldwide, then that shows just how unlikely they think it is that they'll discover something that's only off by 5-10%. As others have said, a sun that's half the size of ours will have a much smaller habitable zone (at least based on carbon/water life), and the
              • I don't think we necessarily know if their are smaller planets in this new system. I'm not sure the exact limitations, but while there have been small (smaller than earth even) objects detected, they seem to only be detected in systems with no significantly larger objects present. This suggests to me that having a big object interferes with detecting a nearby small one.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by niktemadur (793971)
                ...it proves how unlikely it is that we'll find another solar system "just like ours". If astronomers think that being off by 50% is a discovery worth announcing worldwide, then that shows just how unlikely they think it is that they'll discover something that's only off by 5-10%.

                Another way of looking at it, is that the technologies and techniques used to detect extrasolar planets are getting more sensitive and precise, we're inching closer the point in which we'll be able to detect solar systems much mor
            • "pretty damn close"?

              As I said, it's going to have a much lower light output and, thus, a much smaller habitable zone - hardly "just like our sun" and hardly likely to have an earth-like world.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by pe1rxq (141710)
            Half the size is still very much alike....
            And because the configuration is alike (as far as gas giants and there place) it is likely that the evolution of our system is not unique.
            • by Daimanta (1140543)
              "Yeah, I know this guy who looks just like me. The only difference is that he is half my size but besides that, we are like two drops of water."
        • How big is that habitable zone going to be?
          Depends if those midgets have invented electricity. It would be pretty fun to watch a midget flying a kite in an electrical storm. Hmm.

          Anyway, roll on the discovery of other M class planets! Gas giants are fun because you can joke about gas and give them names like 'Uranus', but they're not much use for habitation.

          I propose that we call these gas giants Dupiter, and Dupiter.
    • Well, two is more common than one, so if we originally thought we were unique.... well...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Otter (3800)
      I think the idea is that since we can only examine such a small fraction of the universe, anything we find must be reasonably "common". (Earth itself being exempt from that logic because of the anthropic principle.)
    • Agreed, though my trouble stems from the fact that I know relatively little (ok ...nothing) about the assumed frequency of planet-types within any system. It may be that they had predicted not to find a similar situation in this case... Can't say with out statistics to compare.
    • by tirerim (1108567)
      We don't really have any previous data on how common they are, though, so "more common than we thought" is pretty much meaningless. We've only just started having the technology to potentially detect systems like our own (and we still can't detect terrestrial planets like ours). All we knew before was that systems quite unlike our own were common, which doesn't say much when they were the only kind we could detect. It will be awhile longer before we can even make an initial statement of whether they're r
      • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:52PM (#22994530)
        Right; we don't really have any data to confirm how common earthlike planets are. I expect they're very common, using the common-sense reasoning thusly: As soon as we gained the technology to detect big planets we found them all over. As soon as we develop the technology to detect small planets, the same thing will probably happen. I'm 99% positive I'm right.

        But scientists can't really reason that way; they may hypothesize smaller planets, but can't really make any factual statement about what lies beyond their ability to detect. I guess that the statement would be better phrased as we now have concrete evidence our solar system isn't unique, so the hypothesis that our type of system is relatively common has passed a hurdle of proof.
        • by HiThere (15173)
          It all depends on how closely you define "earthlike". If you just mean something nearly the right size in close to the right position, then I expect that you're right. They're common. If, OTOH, you mean a place where we could live without space-suits...then it's a lot less likely.

          What most people don't internalize is just how special the moon has made Earth. That was a humongous collision back then, any it probably stripped off a large amount of atmosphere. Without that, it would require a much lighter
        • by Kjella (173770)

          But scientists can't really reason that way; they may hypothesize smaller planets, but can't really make any factual statement about what lies beyond their ability to detect.

          Not conclusive proof no, but there are theories of planetary formation. We have observed big lumps of matter, and we can see from our own solar system that there's plenty smaller lumps of matter like earth and the other small planets, all the satellites around jupiter and saturn, asteroids and whatnot. It's like me observing you cutting a slice of bread from some distance, I may not be able to see anything but the slice but it requires a pretty funky theory to make me believe the process didn't create crum

        • by segwonk (1064462)
          I would love it if someone more knowledgeable than I could comment on this:

          I seem to remember hearing or reading years ago that it was expected that planets would
          naturally form roughly in parallel to a line in Pascal's Triangle. i.e., smaller planets really
          close and really far from their star, and larger planets in the middle distances.

          Has anyone else ever heard that? If it's true, I would assume that for all these giant
          planets they've been finding, there must be a whole complement of smaller planets to g
    • I'm sorry, I have trouble whenever whenever an astronomer suggests that something they found "may be much more common than we thought." One observation does not mean way more common. It jumps the gap from "purely theoretical" to "proven possible", and in the data set of the known universe really isn't enough to make any type of assertion about commonality.
    • by misleb (129952)

      I'm sorry, I have trouble whenever whenever an astronomer suggests that something they found "may be much more common than we thought." One observation does not mean way more common. It jumps the gap from "purely theoretical" to "proven possible", and in the data set of the known universe really isn't enough to make any type of assertion about commonality.

      I suppose it depends on what one considers "common."

      Lets put it this way. If you walked up to a haystack and looked down and quickly spotted a needle, wo

      • That's a darn good analogy, and it makes sense to suggest that solar systems like our own are likely to be more common than ever imagined.
  • We found a solar system that is kinda, sorta like ours in two of the planets, and we are "on the brink" of discovering more. Get the space RVs warmed up!
  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:54PM (#22993980) Homepage
    for the SETI crowd to point their antennas to.
    • by HermDog (24570)
      So this is where Starbuck ended up!
    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      Of course it's not. It's 5,000 bloody light years away. There are stars 1,000 times closer to us than that. And 1,000 times closer to us would mean that we'd receive the same radio signals 1 million times better.

      • by Mikkeles (698461)
        'Of course it's not. It's 5,000 bloody light years away. There are stars 1,000 times closer to us than that.'

        And here they are:

        Sun
        Proxima Centauri (V645 Cen) 4.2 ly
        Rigil Kentaurus (Alpha Cen A) 4.3 ly
                                (Alpha Cen B) 4.3 ly

  • 5,000 light years (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:55PM (#22993986) Journal
    ... "At least planetary systems like ours might be more common than previously thought over that direction, 5,000 years ago, at around the distance from us that light would take 5,000 years to get here. Or maybe somebody's holding up a distorted mirror 2,500 light years away. We're not really sure. Some scientist said we're discovering more than we used to, now that we're confident that we can detect them and bother looking. That must mean the spike in data is representative."

    I'm looking hopefully forward to giving people directions by system name and planet number just as much as the next /. geek. I doubt, though, that thinking in general about the number of multi-planet systems has changed drastically because of this one system. Like most science reporting in the mainstream press, this is oversimplified and overhyped.
  • Impressive work (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hattig (47930) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:55PM (#22993996) Journal
    I read the article earlier, and then it had that the star was 5 light years away. I investigated, and it is actually 4900 light years away.

    I'm impressed that they could resolve two planets going around a star that far away, gravitational lensing or not.
    • If we do find a planet there that is earth like. If we could get there. Should we go there and take it over?
      • Of course, lest they take us over first. You don't want to be a slave to an alien civilization, do you?
        • Of course, lest they take us over first. You don't want to be a slave to an alien civilization, do you?
          With all of the overlord welcoming that goes on around here, I wouldn't be surprised if the answer to that question is "Yes".
        • You don't want to be a slave to an alien civilization, do you?
          Do they look and act like Barbarella? [imdb.com] If so, I might have to consider my answer carefully.
  • Dupe (Score:4, Informative)

    by jdb2 (800046) * on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:59PM (#22994024) Journal
    Here's the original from February 14 :

    [slashdot.org]http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/02/14/223241 [slashdot.org]

    jdb2
  • rocky planets (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MyNymWasTaken (879908)
    I am impressed, but I'll be much more impressed when techniques are developed that can spot rocky Earth-type planets.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pe1rxq (141710)
      Actually if you read the article (I know this is slashdot....) you would know that the current techniques are at the level that an earth like planet could be detected with gravitational lensing.
      Just not at the distance of this system.

      An earth size rock could be detected any day now.
      • I did read the article, and will be suitably impressed when microlensing, or another technique, does find an extrasolar Earth-like planet.
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          A more likely method of finding a small extrasolar planet is by using the transit method. Using this method they are able to detect much smaller planets. There is also potential to see what is in it's atmosphere using this method. It works by detecting the light blocked as a planet crosses in front of the star from where we are observing it. When the happens the star dims. The more the star dims, the bigger the planet.
        • I'll be impressed when "they" can send me there ... with a six pack and Yeoman Rand.
    • by sconeu (64226)
      They're the ones that are fighting Apollo Creed Earth Type planets.
    • ...when they can spot a planet that has an ocean of liquid water on it.
    • I am impressed, but I'll be much more impressed when techniques are developed that can spot rocky Earth-type planets.

      Eh, it's just a matter of money. IIRC we could put a constellation of even old Hubble-type 'scopes at L3 and do this today. We just need to scrap together $40B or so. Presumably we can do it affordably with future technology.
    • by MtViewGuy (197597)
      I think with the rapid improvement in even ground-based telescope technology over the past 10 years (and with even bigger ground-based telescopes coming in the next 15 years), we may actually find a rocky-crust planet orbiting around another star within 100 light years of Earth. And by examining the atmosphere, we find gases such as nitrogen, oxygen and water vapor in substantial quantities, then chances are good that planet could have life on it.
  • And just wait until you can patent solar systems. Yes, the vogons will come not to build a hyperspace bypass, but rather for trademark/patent infringement...

    You laugh now....

  • by BeeBeard (999187) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:12PM (#22994146)
    FTA:

    He said that the ultimate goal for exoplanet researchers was to find habitable Earth-like and Mars-like planets.
    (emphasis added)

    While we all crack wise about the bizarro planet of our science fiction dreams, it bears pointing out that the point of the program is ostensibly to find other inhabitable planets--that is, potential sites for future human expansion, rather than other inhabited planets. The difference between the two is not insignificant, and is a nod to the somewhat conservative view that while it may prove impossible to find another planet like the Earth where life has evolved concurrently with our own, it is nevertheless very realistic to search for another planet like the Earth where life could thrive.
    • That's a very good point. The way the human population grows in combination with the way we use the resources on Earth, it is theoretically possible that we run out of resources and need to colonize other planets. In that context, searching for a habitable planet is highly practical in the long run.

      Reminds me of how Q in StarTrek says that humans are like a virus and that we infect planets.

    • by teslar (706653)

      the point of the program is ostensibly to find other inhabitable planets--that is, potential sites for future human expansion

      What's the point of that? I mean, yeah, sure, eventually we will need such sites, whether it's out of necessity or just because we can. However, I'm pretty sure that once we actually have the technology to travel to such planets within a reasonable timeframe, we will also have the technology to find them much more quickly, reliably and easily than at the moment. So - what's the point

      • by Peeteriz (821290)
        Inhabitable (by our standards) planets are considered much more likely to be inhabited than, say, Jupiter-like planets.

        If we can learn to detect planets of such size, then at the very least it's a way to see in which directions should we look for signs of life.
    • by idji (984038)
      Does "Earthlike" (9.8m/s2, 20degC, H20) really mean inhabitable? You also want (80% N2, 18% O2, 200ppm CO2), and isn't the consensus that you only get that 18% O2 from organisms and lots of time. so it seems to me that "habitable"="inhabited", otherwise you're only gonna find a sandy desert/ocean with a NxOy/COx atmosphere at best.
  • "could be much more common than we thought". They come in every astronomy news feature in which scientists discover a new anything.

    How do we know scientists didn't just get lucky and find the only other solar system similar to ours in the entire universe?
    • Reminds me of Archeology too. Find 1 pot with drawings of people bending down before a tree and suddenly "this civilization worshiped trees!"

      That's why I always paint pictures of modern celebrities bowing before programmers, so the future will look back and assume we were some type of utopia. At least the nerds will. And considering they'd be the ones who'd do the digging...
    • Because two is by far the least likely number in cosmology. In such a huge (we still don't know if it is finite) but apparently space-invariant universe, a kind of object is far more likely to be either totally unique or present in a certain percentage of stars or galaxies, but the thing is that, however low that percentage will be, the result will still be a good approximation of infinite.
  • Our first test of Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development [memory-alpha.org]!
  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Monday April 07, 2008 @06:10PM (#22994690) Journal
    A solar system with similar features to our own eh? Darl...?
  • Using that microlensing technique, and knowing that we can detect a Saturn in a twin solar system 5,000 light years away, how close would a star have to be for us to be able to detect an Earth?

  • by dpilot (134227) on Monday April 07, 2008 @06:55PM (#22995084) Homepage Journal
    Your equation is waiting... ...for some coefficients.
  • Earth lawyers sue for copying the "look and feel" of the solar system.
  • We should sue for copyright infringement.
  • then the system isn't all that like ours. It may be better than any other one so far... but that's far from okay. Let's hope they'll be able to stop with the B.S. press releases and give us some real good news one of these days.
  • It's a freaking red subdwarf with 50% of the mass of Sol. The luminosity is probably 1/400th of our star. Any planet close enough to have liquid water would probably get slammed by massive flares on a regular basis - it might even be tidally locked to the star.

    Until we can detect planets in the mass range of Earth, I don't think there is any point in speculating about the prevailance of systems that might support life in a carbon-based, water-saturated ecology like Earth.

  • This is sort of offtopic, but I have a different perspective on any of these reports of Sol-like systems.

    Given our current detection technology, how far away could an alien observer be and still be able to
    1) Detect Sol

    2) Detect rocky planets within Sol's habitable zone, specifically at least one of Earth's dimensions.

    3) Determine the composition of one of those planets to be composed of organic chemistry requisite for life as we know it?

    My layman's guess is that that alien observer would have to
  • UPDATE (Score:2, Funny)

    by lordfoul (108260)
    It turns out we were looking into the wrong end of the telescope. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused.
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrCreosote (34188) on Monday April 07, 2008 @11:24PM (#22996698)
    if they have the same gods as we do?
    • If they were intelligently designed, probably not.
    • Same gods "we" do? There are thousands of religions on earth, some of which have no gods at all. Even the ones that have "a god" often mostly just share the word due to word importation into other languages.

      Most religions DO seem to share a common sense of decency though (see the golden rule, for instance) -- at least amongst practitioners who really study that religion (as opposed to sunday-go-to-churchers who just grow up religion and think they know it because their father/grandmother did).

      So that woul
  • Sue them for all they've got, if we let ONE solar system get away with copying our design then soon ALL the solar systems will.
  • If you, as some researchers do, believe that space is finite and only appears infinite because of a repeating "wrap-around" effect, then you would realize that could be seeing ourselves.

    In fact, if this "wrap-around" effect is true, then we should be able to find ourselves an infinite number of times!

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_19_164/ai_110737294 [findarticles.com]

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