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Space Science

Astronomers Claim Discovery of Earth-like Planet 225

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-would-be-a-rough-civ-map dept.
Raver32 writes "A team of astronomers announced they have discovered the smallest and potentially most Earth-like extrasolar planet yet. Five times as massive as Earth, it orbits a relatively cool star at a distance that would provide earthly temperatures as well, signaling the possibility of liquid water. 'The separation between the planet and its star is just right for having liquid water at its surface,' says astronomer and team spokesperson Stephane Udry of the Observatory of Geneva in Versoix, Switzerland. 'That's why we are a bit excited.' But researchers do not yet know if the planet contains water, if it is truly rocky like Earth, which might make it hospitable to life as we know it, or whether it is blanketed by a thick atmosphere. 'What we have,' Udry says, 'is the minimum mass of the planet and its separation" from its star.'"
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Astronomers Claim Discovery of Earth-like Planet

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  • TFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday July 21, 2008 @10:32AM (#24273759)

    TFA is dated 24 April, 2007 -- I'm pretty sure that this is old news.

  • Interesting find. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sneezinglion (771733) on Monday July 21, 2008 @10:33AM (#24273777)

    I wonder how long before we can verify an earth like extrasolar planet?

    As more of these are found we may be able to plug more data into drake's equation [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Interesting find. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by WibbleOnMars (1129233) on Monday July 21, 2008 @10:49AM (#24274049)

      Since Drake's equation needs to know the proportions of stars with planets, it would require us to have known negative results as well as known positives in order for it to give any meaningful results.

      At the moment, we can say there are a few hundred planets, out of maybe a few thousand stars that we've scanned, but for the stars where we haven't found anything, we don't know for sure whether that's because there isn't anything there, or because we just aren't looking hard enough.

      • by edalytical (671270) on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:35PM (#24276209)
        Forget the proportion of stars with planets. Fl is the real unknown. Why assume all planets that can support life will develop life? What if life is actually pretty rare? Try plugging in values less that 1 for Fl (0.1, 0.01, 0.001) and you'll get some disappointing results from this equation. Trying to quantify something with so many unknowns seems pretty silly to me. On the other hand maybe life isn't rare, but that's just me being hopeful.
  • From the blurb itself, it's five time the size of earth, it's revolving around a cooler sun than earth, and it might not have liquid water or a thick atmosphere. Yeah, that's exactly like earth!

    • by 4D6963 (933028) on Monday July 21, 2008 @10:48AM (#24274033)

      From the blurb itself, it's five time the size of earth, it's revolving around a cooler sun than earth, and it might not have liquid water or a thick atmosphere. Yeah, that's exactly like earth!

      You're missing the point. By Earth-like they mean telluric planet, as in, not a gas giant. That's all. And that matters because until now we haven't found so many of them, most of the planets we've found were gas giants orbiting close to their star. But as time goes by we find ever decreasingly large planets that get closer and closer to the Earth in size.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)


        You're missing the point. By Earth-like they mean telluric planet, as in, not a gas giant.

        In this case, they don't actually mean even this. From TFA:

        "What we have," Udry says, "is the minimum mass of the planet and its separation" from its star.

        They don't actually know if it's rocky. All that they know is that the mass is about right, and it's about close enough to a red dwarf for liquid water.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      It is located roughly at a point where it COULD have liquid water and it could have a thick atmosphere.
      It may or may not.
      But may is better than not a chance.
      Seems like it would be worth pointing a radio telescope at and see if we find there version of I Love Lucie.

  • by Fallen Andy (795676) on Monday July 21, 2008 @10:53AM (#24274133)
    can be found here [wikipedia.org](Gliese 581) and here [wikipedia.org](Gliese 581c). It's a sad day when wikipedia seems to be more reliable than SciAm, but oh well, the rot set in many years ago...

    Andy

  • by sjonke (457707) on Monday July 21, 2008 @10:58AM (#24274229) Journal

    Invade!

  • by bersl2 (689221) on Monday July 21, 2008 @11:08AM (#24274443) Journal

    That's kind of important, I would think.

  • Give each member of the team of astronomers a Steakhouse burger from BK!
  • Captain Kirk found a new Earth-like planet almost every week. What was even more amazing was they were occupied by PEOPLE with 1960s haircuts and clothing.
  • Its 20 light years away, which if you could get a probe up to say .5 c could be done in 40 years. Thats sounds like a long time until you realize Voyager probes have been in space for about 30 years.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      Its 20 light years away, which if you could get a probe up to say .5 c could be done in 40 years.

      I love it when a "what if" scenario lists the reason why the scenario can never happen within itself.

  • ... but right now it's kinda like being a man dying of thirst on a boat in the middle of the ocean ("water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink").

    Wake me up when we can actually swing by one of these places for a visit.

  • Planetary Technonics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Monday July 21, 2008 @12:44PM (#24276433) Homepage Journal

    Assuming that the density is a little bit less than the Earth (more like the Moon or Mars) and this "Super Earth" is thus larger by a sizable fraction..... what is the geological environment of a planet such as this like?

    Since the interior heat of this planet has less surface area in proportion to its volume, internal heat from its formation and nuclear decay from heavy elements (like Uranium) would therefore cause a much larger interior heat sink... and causing substantially more techtonic activity and a great many more volcanoes.

    Using Mars as a comparator here as well, Mars is smaller than the Earth, and geologically dead, with fewer but much larger volcanoes. Is it reasonable to assume this planet... if it had a rocky "surface", would literally be littered with smaller volcanoes over nearly all of its surface with much smaller "continents"?

    Assume that the age of this planet is roughly similar to that of the Earth and that heavy metals (heavier than Iron) in its formation are roughly proportional to what we find on the Earth.

    I just don't find that this would be all that pleasant of a place to be at, and the nearly constant volcanism would IMHO kill off nearly any attempt to colonize this planet with life.

    It certainly would be a weird planet to look at though.

    • The latest results of Messenger's first flyby of Mercury confirms a magnetic field and molten outer core. Conversely, Venus which is Earth's twin in size, seems a lot more dead. A more important factor may have been chemical composition at the time of formation - Mercury had more metal. Elements may have been unevenly distributed as function of distance from the Sun in the original planetary nebula.
  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday July 21, 2008 @01:59PM (#24277769)

    To the many, many people who've taken the time to correct my shitty assumption, berate me, mod me down, and otherwise point out that in my rush to post I forgot to turn my brain on ... I hang my head in shame. I will now seek out my grade 10 physics teacher (or locate his grave as the case may be) and confess my sins.

    And of course, for the angriest among you, this post presents another opportunity to mod me down.

  • by Illbay (700081) on Monday July 21, 2008 @03:56PM (#24279515) Journal

    ...that I'm "very Brad Pitt-like" in my online dating profile, even if I'm actually "five times as massive?"

    I mean, otherwise we are VERY, VERY, VERY, similar, right down to the molecular level!

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".

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