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Carbon Dioxide and Water Found On Exoplanet 151

Posted by timothy
from the don't-drink-the-water-and-don't-breathe-the-air dept.
Off the Rails writes "The BBC reports that evidence has been found for both water vapour and carbon dioxide on a planet 63 light years away. The planet is a 'hot Jupiter' with a surface temperature of 1173K and an orbital period of just 53 hours. The gases were found spectroscopically once its orbit had been deduced from observation. NASA hailed the news as proof that Kepler will be able to do its job of finding planets capable of supporting life." Wikipedia also has an entry on the planet, dubbed HD 189733b.
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Carbon Dioxide and Water Found On Exoplanet

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  • Well.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:20PM (#26066069)
    I for one welcome our new 1173 Kelvin alien overlords!
    • Re:Well.... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:24PM (#26066117)

      There must have been a lot of SUV's to make the planet so hot!

      • Just a computer running Vista, 'tis all.
    • by mog007 (677810)

      The CO2 could be a big deal, but water? Seriously? Water? It's the second most abundant molecule in the fucking universe, and that's supposed to be a big deal? Am I missing something?

  • Doxide? (Score:3, Funny)

    by dafrazzman (1246706) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:22PM (#26066083)
    Seriously?
  • Wow, that's really.um hot? oh wait, kelvin measure cold. no. wait.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912) *
      Well, that's 1,651.73 Fahrenheit/899.85 Celsius according to Google. Almost cozy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by d3ac0n (715594)

      1175 K = 902 C = 1655.6 F

      Really damn hot.

      "That's LORD Kelvin to you!" - Adam Savage

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by gyrogeerloose (849181)

        1175 K = 902 C = 1655.6 F Really damn hot.

        Yeah, it is. Almost as hot as Bakersfield in August, even.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Yeah, I know.
        It's just funny that in the public US media, Kelvin is usually only used when talking about temperatures close to absolute Zero.
        I was just being goofy given the usually media reference.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by RodgerDodger (575834)

        Hotter than Hell, but considerably cooler than Heaven.

    • Re:1173K! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Threni (635302) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @06:00PM (#26066647)

      640k ought to be enough for anyone.

      All we need now is some sodastream flavouring and we're sorted!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Godji (957148)
        I was going to give you a +1 Funny for the 640K reference (pure genius!), but then I wrote this to explain why I was going to do mod you up. Tough luck.
  • Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) * on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:25PM (#26066139) Journal

    NASA hailed the news as proof that Kepler will be able to do its job of finding planets capable of supporting life.

    So the announcement about the discovery of a planet not capable of supporting life... is proof that Hubble's replacement will be able to find planets that will support life?

    • Yeah, I'm not sure how they can extrapolate from a hot jupiter situation to a terrestrial world in the liquid water zone. We can only just barely detect terestrial planets as it is, and even when we can detect them it's only because of special circumstances.

      Is Hubble's replacement really that much better that we can safely say it is sensitive enough to do what Hubble can do, except a few orders of magnitude better?

      As a side note, the wikipedia article also mentions that methane was detected. Wasn't findin

      • "Wasn't finding water and methane in the same place once the litmus test for life on exoplanets?"

        Methane & Oxygen.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Entropy98 (1340659)

      How do you know this planet isn't teaming with life?
      --
        IP net address Finding [ipfinding.com]

      • The fact that the temperature curve is high is just a side effect of the huge rocket they launched at us at almost the speed of light. But they are 63 light years away and so I'm not scared of no stinking aliens, oh wait, if they are at near light and the image is 63 years old, they could be here any minute. Instead, I want to welcome .... On a serious note the correlation of three points of data is hardly enough to form any real conclusions, but it does allow the possibility boundaries to include the possi
    • by StupendousMan (69768) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:53PM (#26066559) Homepage

      So the announcement about the discovery of a planet not capable of supporting life... is proof that Hubble's replacement will be able to find planets that will support life?

      Kepler will be a small telescope (about 1 meter) in orbit, with the sole mission of looking at a few fixed areas on the sky and searching for planets by the transit method: take thousands of pictures and look for stars which become dimmer for a few hours due to a planet crossing their disks. This small mission will launch in spring 2009 and is NOT a replacement for HST.

      The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is Hubble's replacement. It will be much larger (with a mirror around 6.5 meters in diameter) and carry out many, many different types of observations. This mission will launch, uh, some time around 2013, if all goes well.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Kratisto (1080113)

        Which it won't, because we're all going to die in 2012 when the Ancient Mayans, resurrected by the Antichrist, Barack Obama go to the LHC and use it to create black holes and stranglets.

        ... Right?

        • Which it won't, because we're all going to die in 2012 when the Ancient Mayans, resurrected by the Antichrist, Barack Obama go to the LHC and use it to create black holes and stranglets.

          Duude! Where is that quest in Northrend?

      • by excesspwr (218183)

        Kepler will be a small telescope (about 1 meter) in orbit

        Only a 1 meter orbit?

        *ducks*

    • by Godji (957148)
      This whole discussion leaves me to ask this one basic question:

      What is life? How do we define it?

      Let's get our terms clear, and then we can argue about whether we can find life elsewhere.
  • .. Bush has ordered troops to liberate the planet and then declare "Mission Accomplished" in a desperate attempt to secure a 'legacy' *somewhere* in this galaxy.
  • by blitzkrieg3 (995849) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:34PM (#26066287)
    1173 kelvin = 1 651.73 degrees Fahrenheit

    NASA hailed the news as proof that Kepler will be able to do its job of finding planets capable of supporting life.

    I guess all you need to support life these days is water vapor and carbon dioxide. Never mind that the planet is hotter than the surface of some stars.

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:38PM (#26066335) Journal

      Yeah.... that was my thought too. If you start throwing ideas out there about "new life forms that would thrive in that temperature range" -- why not postulate about ones that don't require an atmosphere or "breathing" at all? Seems just as possible to me.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      NASA hailed the news as proof that Kepler will be able to do its job of finding planets capable of supporting life.

      So he isn't dead?

    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:50PM (#26066509)

      The temperature of a gas giant has little meaning since it increases with depth.
      Since there is little to no "surface" there are just different temperatures at different altitudes.

      For example, there is perfectly comfortable weather on Venus at a certain altitude, around 50 km... just not at the surface.

      • by Bartab (233395)

        How the hell is Venus an example for something that starts out "The temperature of a gas giant..."

        • by TempeTerra (83076)

          Usually we are interested in the surface temperature of a planet but if consider different levels in the atmosphere there is a large temperature range. The surface temperature of venus is [lots], the temperature of this exoplanet somewhere - but probably not at the surface since that is poorly defined for gas giants - is [bigger lots]. However, if you move up through the atmosphere of any planet it gets colder, so as there is a temperate atmospheric range somewhere above the surface of venus there also shou

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What NASA meant was that this shows that Keppler can successfully detect carbon dioxide and water on exoplanets, not that this planet in particular would be capable of supporting life.

      In some time they might find one that's a little cooler (though earth-size planets are still a lot harder to find than jupiter-size ones).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fluffeh (1273756)
      Well, we found stuff living at the boiling point of water [sciencedaily.com] here. Why is it so hard to keep an open mind for the chance that something more exotic than we have found so far on this hunk of dirt exists out there?

      As for hotter than the surface of some stars? That's a bit misleading. There are thermal vents on our planet hotter than the surface of some stars if you count the same stars you are referring to - and that's not exactly mind-blowing.

      In other news. Temperatures hotter than the surface of stars [recipesource.com] us
    • PV=nRT

      Yes, water at 1600ÂF is just vapor here on earth, but it could be liquid (or ice!) on a gas giant.

      Or there could be large currents of cooler fluid at the poles, maybe.

      It probably isn't anything life could be sustained in, but there is more potential than has been ruled out.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @07:40PM (#26067727)

      Kepler is a space telescope designed to look for planets that transit their stars from our point of view.

      It's been well established by ground telescopes that you can detect planets, including fairly small planets and ones in quite distant orbits using this method.

      It's now been established that you can get reasonable spectra of transiting planets through this subtraction method.

      Thus, Kepler, which detects planets that transit their stars, should be able to detect planets that are the right size and in the right orbit for life, and should ALSO be able to obtain spectra so their composition can be determined.

      Thus, Kepler should be able to detect planets where life is possible, or even likely.

    • They're not saying that the planet in question will support life. They're saying that Kepler is able to determine, at inter-stellar distances, the components of the atmosphere. So if, for example, they point Kepler at a planet that happens to have a large amount of free oxygen (which would be a strong indicator of the presence of life), then Kepler would probably be able to say "Yes, there's oxygen there".

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @08:59PM (#26068621) Homepage

      Is it really not obvious what they were saying? Does it really need to be spelled out? Apparently, so here goes. They were able to identify a planet that has both water and carbon dioxide. It happens to be very hot, and thus this particular planet is unlikely to host life, however it is a proof of concept for the technique of doing spectroscopy on distant exoplanets. They are going to be fielding better telescopes in the future, which should be able to detect smaller and cooler planets that are capable of supporting life.

      Hope that makes sense!

      • The context was misleading. I had assumed what you said was what they meant, but the summary still could have been worded better. Thanks for "spelling it out" though.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chris Burke (6130)

          I had assumed what you said was what they meant, but the summary still could have been worded better.

          Lol, yeah, of course you did, but an "I understand it, but think the summary could have been worded better" post isn't as fun as an "I'm smarter than NASA" post, is it?

    • by Talar (1245824)
      NASA never said anything about this planet being able to support life. The good news is that the methods used in finding this planet and determine the atmospheric contents could lead to much more interesting finds in the future.
  • Um No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:42PM (#26066399)

    "NASA hailed the news as proof that Kepler will be able to do its job of finding planets capable of supporting life."

    Seeing as it can only seem to spot super massive planets the size of Jupiter or larger, this will likely not help one whit.

    Is it a good first step? Sure.

    So there is water vapor and CO2? Big deal. It is also over 1000 degrees K, a bit hot no? It is also not solid, sometimes a problem. It is also frickin huge, so unless you want to transform yourself into a diamond due to being crushed by unbelievable pressures, you may want to look else where.

    To my understanding (which may be limited) this stuff is figured out by observing the "wobble" of light from a star. This is apparently caused by small gravitational effects caused by planetary bodies. How they get composition I am not entirely sure. However it seems that unless your planetary body is of a significant mass, the "wobble" isn't as easily seen. Which is why we are getting news about a super massive hot Jupiter being proof that a technology will fulfill its roll in finding planets suitable for life.

    Perhaps they mean to do it by subtraction. Simply identify all those that are unsuitable, subtract that from the total, and what you are left are bountiful earth like paradises with green amazon women.

    • Re:Um No. (Score:5, Informative)

      by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:50PM (#26066499)

      I'm of the opinion that spending billions of dollars on searching for ET life is silly, but in this article's [or the summary thereof] defense, it didn't say THIS planet was habitable. My reading was that they simply proved (presumably) that they were able to find out if water and CO2 exists on a planet.

    • How they get composition I am not entirely sure.

      If I had to take a shot in the dark, I'd guess spectrum analysis [wikipedia.org]. This is /. though so I naturally have not read the article before replying. :)

    • by Fluffeh (1273756)
      Okay, to give you a little more info (in a hurried fashion, as I am at work and should be peeking into a database right now)...

      Yes, they do discover most planets through the wobble method, however, when they have this information, they can actually start to look at the planets themselves. Once you know it's there, and you know the orbit, you can stop looking at the wobble and focus on where the planet is you see.

      As for working out composition, it's called gas chromatography. Here is a brief history [sciencedirect.com] of
    • Re:Um No. (Score:5, Informative)

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @07:45PM (#26067779)

      Your understanding is incorrect.

      Kepler is designed to detect planets that transit their parent stars. That is, the planet passes directly in front of the star from our point of view. That causes the perceived brightness of the start to decrease a little when the planet passes in front.

      Kepler is expected to be able to detect Earth-sized planets. Since the planet passes directly in front of the star, you can measure changes in the spectra from the system as the planet passes in front. By subtracting the star - planet and the star + planet measurements, you can get an idea of the composition of the planet's atmosphere.

      • by DarthVain (724186)

        Perhaps...

        However there remains the fact that they are trying to say their method is proof because of this find. The find being a super massive hot Jupiter.

        So I am calling BS.

        When they use the method to find a world, that is at least in the same category as earth sized, then I might start giving what they say some credence. As it stands, it doesn't really matter of they use a smelloscope to find the world, if it can only find the really big ones, it is quite useless if the purpose is to find habitable world

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Well, no. The summary said NASA was hailing it as "proof."

          What the article says is:

          Although the agency is keen to stress the planet is far too hot to support life, it says the finding represents an important proof of concept, showing that it is possible to detect CO2 in the atmospheres of distant planets orbiting other stars, and that the same method could be used to look at planets which might support life.

          (bold mine)

          "Proof of concept" is a very different thing than "proof" and it turns out NASA wasn't ev

    • by Samah (729132)

      Perhaps they mean to do it by subtraction. Simply identify all those that are unsuitable, subtract that from the total, and what you are left are bountiful earth like paradises with green amazon women.

      From "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe":

      It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. 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 Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

      • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

        Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds.

        This is where that argument falls apart...

  • by Suisho (1423259) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:44PM (#26066437)
    "Although they are keen to stress the planet is far too hot to support life, they say the finding represents an important proof of concept, showing that it is possible to detect CO2 in the atmospheres of distant planets orbiting other stars, and that the same method could be used to look at planets which might support life."
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Differently than what? The summary? No. The summary says the same thing. The only thing missing is stressing that this planet cannot support life. The summary does not claim that this planet can support life. Only that it demonstrates that Kepler will be able to find planets which can. Which is the same thing the article says.

  • Error bars? (Score:2, Interesting)

    whats the point in putting error bars on spectrum if your just going to ignore them?
    spectrum of HD 189733b [wikimedia.org]
    Surely the line has to go through those points, so either thier detector is broken and there should be huge error bars OR there is a major peaks at ~10, ~12, in fact the only place where the spectrum seams to be a reasonable fit is in the useless tail end where the error bars are huge.

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @05:56PM (#26066603) Homepage Journal

    Wikipedia also has an entry on the planet, dubbed HD 189733b.

    Notice that astronomers are not typically confused with the lives of the party.

  • Proof would be when someone goes there and verifies the findings..

    • by wcrowe (94389)

      In this case, I think the word "proof" is being applied to the ability of the Kepler photometer to detect life-supporting compounds on exoplanets, not that the planets themselves can support life.

      • by crossmr (957846)

        But how can we be sure of that until someone goes there to check that it returned the correct results?

        • But how can we be sure of that until someone goes there to check that it returned the correct results?

          Consistency; As our ability to measure remotely grows, we can do more tests. If the results are inconsistent, we'll have to come up with new theories.

          In other words, we can't be sure, but we can make reasonable assumptions.

  • by TheNecromancer (179644) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @06:06PM (#26066713)

    Are they sure that someone didn't spill soda pop on the lens, when they took the measurements? Hmm, this spectroscopic analysis seems remarkably like the spectrum of Pepsi.

    Unless, of course, our new alien overlords also drink Pepsi!

  • by Maajid (922035)
    I believe I speak for everyone when I quote a certain Ms. Hilton on this one: "That's hot!"
  • Maybe they fucked up their planet big time and bailed. Wonder where they went? Maybe we can get someone to educate them on the problems of abusing the environment and temper the fever their old planet has so they don't mess up another one.

    Or, maybe they just bought too many carbon credits from the Kang and Kodos Intergalactic Planting Company.

  • ...our doxide and water vapour overlourds...
  • ... really interesting?

    Water and CO2 are substances that pretty much form all by themselves, from very common elements. Wake me up when they find stuff that wouldn't occur on a "dead" world (oxygen/fluorine/chlorine, for example).

  • by lateralus_1024 (583730) <mattbaha@NOspAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @06:37PM (#26067093)

    " NASA hailed the news as proof that Kepler will be able to do its job of finding planets capable of supporting life."

     
    Somebody's trying to avoid funding cuts from the new administration ;) I'm looking at you NASA.

    • Well, one of the first things most people do when they get a new boss is try to justify their position in the company. This is especially true if there are blank pink slips in his hand. so this is a pretty typical response.

      Unfortunately I haven't seen anything where Obama is going to ditch crap government programs that don't have half the scientific return of NASA. And with the winking that the public did in the face of earmarks I don't expect anything to change as far as government waste.
  • The presence of water vapor in an object like HD 189733b is not remarkable: water has been detected in the spectra of brown dwarfs, in the giant planets of our own solar system, and the transiting exoplanet HD209458b.

    Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is a surprise: at the temperatures and pressures encountered in an exoplanet atmosphere of this type, all carbon should be present as methane (if cool enough) or carbon monoxide. Giant planet atmospheres are generally far too hydrogen-rich for CO2 to form i

  • The story should probably mention that this is just confirmation of findings from back in Summer of '07 (July 11, 2007 according to Wikipedia). Before I realized that I was staring at the article for a long time going "what? That happened years ago!"
  • ... molecular oxygen. Hereabouts, most of it is created by life. And since it is consumed by oxidization, its presence would be a good indicator of an ongoing process to replenish it.
  • by plisskin (979687)
    640K should be enough for anybody. Wait. What?
  • Great, when we get there those aliens are already cooked.
  • Not so good for terrestrial life forms, but the inhabitants of Venus (if there are any) might like it.

  • I'd been wondering lately if water vapor and carbon dioxide could still exist in a familiar form at 1,600+ degrees outside of a highly contained lab.
    This is just the news I've been waiting for. ~

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