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Space Science

32 Exoplanets Discovered By Chilean Telescope 146

Posted by timothy
from the that's-just-for-starters dept.
the4thdimension writes "An article on CNN notes that 32 exoplanets have been discovered using a new Chilean telescope. The telescope is capable of detecting movements of 2.1mph (comparable to a slow walking pace). These 32 new planets give the telescope a total of 75 planets it has discovered, out of the 400 discovered using all methods employed by astronomers. This places the HARPS system as the world's foremost exoplanet hunter."
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32 Exoplanets Discovered By Chilean Telescope

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  • Um, just how long is the trip to the nearest habitable exoplanet again?

    If it's less than my remaining life expectancy, get me a ticket.

    • by confused one (671304) on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:19PM (#29800283)
      As soon as we find a habitable exoplanet, we'll let you know.
      • by Tanktalus (794810)

        If davidwr is a telephone sanitizer, we don't necessarily have to wait that long...

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:27PM (#29800407) Homepage Journal

      Um, just how long is the trip to the nearest habitable exoplanet again? If it's less than my remaining life expectancy, get me a ticket.

      While that's out of the question, an unmanned nuke-powered probe could possibly survey such a system in one life-time if sufficiently funded.
           

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357) *

        The only reason to send an unmanned craft, is to scout out the habitable planets.

      • Perhaps its providence that we're faced with sustainable energy productions and conservation here on Earth. Our efforts might reveal a means of space propulsion using energy captured during flight. Otherwise, a portable power source capable of inter-stellar travel could be a hot piece of technology to the other civilization. If such a probe were to "darken our doorstep", it could easily start a war, or worse, i.e. Voyager episode Friendship One.
      • "While that's out of the question, an unmanned nuke-powered probe could possibly survey such a system in one life-time if sufficiently funded".

        Nope. To reach the nearest solar system within a lifetime (80 years) and brake to it, you would have to have an acceleration, deceleration and speed such as it make the 4 light year distance within 80 years. Let us imagine this is a 1 kg probe, accelerating at a reasonable 1g constantly, go toward the system, then decelerate at 1g constantly. To make those 4 LY in
        • You're off by a factor of 10. Ignoring relativity, accelerating at 1 g for 1/2 of a year brings you to approximately 50% c and not 5%.
          • 300000 km.s-1 speed of light, 15000 km s-1 is 5% of it, so 1,5 e7 m.s-1 at 1g , or 1 meter s-2, you need 1.5e7 seconds, divided by 3600 this is 4166 hours, divided by 24 this is 176 days. Where am I off by a factor 10 ?
            • 3e8 m/s speed of light
              1.5e7 m/s is 5% of speed of light
              v = at so t = v/a
              t = (1.5e7 m/s) / (10 m/s^2) = 1.5e6 sec
              (1.5e6 sec) / (3600 sec/hour) ~ 417 hours ~ 17 days
              Your error is that 1 g is not 1 m/s^2 but rather 10 m/s^2.
              • I was so concentrated on the time calculation I forgot to check the most glaring error : wrong constant :P. It does not change the reasonment tough.
        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          What's cool is that, due to relativity, if you put some humans on board this ship, they could make the journey in much less than a lifetime, and travel back too. Unfortunately, hundreds of years will have passed on Earth by the time they get back, aged only perhaps a decade, and all their friends and relatives will be dead.

          I read a book a while ago that detailed this exact journey, to the Alpha Centauri system. The travelers used a hollowed-out asteroid with a mass driver for propulsion.

    • The point isn't to visit. The point is to find interesting planets and study them from afar, and possibly send probes eventually. Moving information is more fundamental than moving a particular flesh body around.

    • Define 'lifetime'. If we can fix the largest impediment to human space travel: human bodies, we might be able to send you on the slow train to every planet in the galaxy, given a sufficiently advanced system suspend function on your quantum brain.

      • by smoker2 (750216)
        Why limit ourselves to human bodies ?

        If we can perfect AI, then the things we have created will BE us anyway. If you had a perfect robot brain, then you could treat it exactly like a human child, it would have the same emotions, impulses, thoughts ... So why not ? We (as a species) can go and stay awake the whole time. Why would anybody NOT want to be almost invulnerable ? The only real objection most of the time is you don't feel it would be right. Remember the Matrix, what you feel is the result of your
  • Great (Score:2, Funny)

    by Threni (635302)

    That's all we need. More planets.

  • 3.5km/h (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:21PM (#29800317)

    the instrument detects movements as small as 3.5 km/hr (2.1 mph), a slow walking pace

    So let me get this straight: If this thing were observing a star system 50 light years away, that's 4.7x10^14 kilometres ... and this thing can detect relative movements as small as 3.5km/hr?

    Consider me impressed.

    • In other news, Chile has experienced a dust storm recently.

    • Re:3.5km/h (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kingrames (858416) on Monday October 19, 2009 @06:28PM (#29801137)
      Sadly, most slashdotters won't be impressed until it can detect the jiggle of the breast of an Orion slave girl.
      • by Tablizer (95088)

        Sadly, most slashdotters won't be impressed until it can detect the jiggle of the breast of an Orion slave girl.

        You mean until we verify the jiggle first-hand (pun intended).
           

  • The telescope is capable of detecting movement 2.1mph (comparable to a slow walking pace).

    It's amazing that such a small shift in spectrum line displacement can be detected. It doesn't make intuitive sense that a mere walking pace will produce a detectable shift. That's precision stuff. It's amazing what astronomy technology has been able to do with indirect information.
       

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:24PM (#29800361)

    Well, the "new Chilenean telescope" the summary is referring to is actually the 3.6m telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, which started operation in 1976...

    and here is the link to the ESO Press Release [eso.org]

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Well, the "new Chilenean telescope" the summary is referring to [...] started operation in 1976...

      Which, compared to the age of the universe, is certainly new.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Random Walk (252043)
      It's the instrumentation that really counts. There are lots of old telescopes which just gather dust, because they have no competitive instruments attached to their focal plane. On the other hand, the success of the HARPS spectrograph clearly shows that even with old telescopes one can do great science.
  • by bidule (173941)

    http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/lasilla/instruments/harps/overview.html [eso.org]

    The speed is the radial velocity, aka how fast it comes closer and goes further. And it's of the order of 1 m/s, which got converted to car speed. Analogy anyone?

  • Ridiculous claim (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Brian Gordon (987471)

    The device can detect slight wobbles of stars as they respond to tugs from exoplanets' gravity. ... The instrument detects movements as small as 3.5 km/hr (2.1 mph)

    I guess it could be possible to isolate certain frequencies in the oscillation to filter out solar storms and such which would easily affect its diameter at a rate faster than walking speed. But you'd have to watch it for centuries to gather enough data. At least. Geez, doing the trig (like 10^-22 radians per second) my intuition tells me you'd h

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Perhaps 2.1 mph is below the necessary precision to detect planets, and star storm effects are also below that. Thus, the displacement ranking may be something like:

      planetWobble > starStorm > scopeThreshold

      But that's merely speculation that could explain your puzzle. I don't have the real answer.

      Also, star storm movement may be canceled out by throwing some of the star "back-ward". For example, when you spit out a spray of water, your body moves back slightly due to the motion conservat

      • Oh, good point. You're probably right about the precision of the scope.

        From the eso.org project site it looks like they're actually using radial velocity (doppler shift) to measure the wobble so the arc calculation doesn't mean anything. It seems like that would be almost more difficult though. Picking out planetary-year-long wobbles from other low-frequency phenomena like sunspot activity and solar cycles sounds impossible.

    • Re:Ridiculous claim (Score:5, Informative)

      by goodmanj (234846) on Monday October 19, 2009 @06:05PM (#29800893)

      They're not measuring the side-to-side motion of the stars, that's impossible^H^H^H^Hvery difficult to measure, as your trig suggests.

      They're measuring the Doppler shift of features in the star's optical spectrum, as it moves toward us and away. It's the world's most impressive police radar gun.

  • by jhfry (829244) on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:36PM (#29800507)

    That "walking pace" stat could be very impressive if it were given with the proper qualification information.

    For example, if it could detect an object moving at that pace over the course of a year at 1 light year away... I would probably not be as impressed if it could do it from 50 light years in a matter of minutes.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      I'd be astounded if you could build a device that could measure the velocity of a person walking across the room.

      • Can I cover the person in mirrors?
      • by jhfry (829244)

        That's easy... it's called a watch and a ruler. Now I'm no watch maker, nor can I create an accurate ruler without one to use for refrence, but if you'll let me give you velocity in strides per "one thousand" count... then I can measure velocity.

    • Mod parent up. The impressive figure in the article is completely meaningless. And I seriously am curious.
  • ESO Press Release (Score:3, Informative)

    by mene (1660015) on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:36PM (#29800511)
    More details can be found in the Press Release [eso.org] of the European Southern Observatory. They have been using a new instrument called HARPS on the "old" ESO 3.6m telescope, which has ben around since 1976.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kamakiri (944887)

      More details can be found in the Press Release [eso.org] of the European Southern Observatory. They have been using a new instrument called HARPS on the "old" ESO 3.6m telescope, which has ben around since 1976.

      And HARPS [wikipedia.org] has been operational since 2003.

  • !Chilean (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomcircuit (938963) on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:41PM (#29800557) Homepage

    This is a telescope operating in Chile, it is only partially funded by the Chileans.

    Funded by

    • Swiss National Science Foundation
    • Federal Office for Education and Research
    • La Région Provence, Alpes et Côte d'Azur
    • Institut National des Sciences de l'Univers INSU
    • European Space Organization
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not "Space Organization." It's not directly related to the European Space Agency.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Does this mean they have to divy up the planets? "Four for you, three for you, three plus two moons for you; oh, and you small donors and magazine subscribers get the asteroids to split amongst yourselves..."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cenc (1310167)

      Yea, the suckers are sufficiently stupid to fund our telescopes. We are getting some very nice hardware for nothing.

      It was holding one of the the clearest and most unpolluted skies over their head that made them cry uncle and beg to built it, and they just keep on coming. Not our problem they f***ed up their environment to the point that no one in the northern hemisphere can see the stars anymore.

      Just wait, in 50 years Chile is going repo those telescopes and charge by the star. It is all an elaborate plot

  • Slow News Day.

    Seriously, are any of these 32 new planets at all interesting? It was great that we've figured out how to detect the existence of these planets, but even the chilean team doesn't bother to single out any of them as being out of the ordinary.

    Now that VASIMR [slashdot.org] technology seems to be coming of age, isn't it time to do a survey of everything within say, 20 light years to find stuff that may be potentially habitable?

    • are any of these 32 new planets at all interesting?

      Define interesting.

      • by jfdawes (254678)

        Interesting: engaging or exciting and holding the attention or curiosity.

        Sure. Some of these may be "interesting" to a limited set of people, but for the most part they are about the same as the other couple of hundred planets already discovered.

        There's a lot of planets out there. They were expecting to find a bunch of them. This is not news.

        I'm pretty sure if there were interesting planets in the 32 they are announcing, they would have pointed them out.

        • by smoker2 (750216)
          Bored people are boring.

          The point is that they are discovering more planets all the time. The "couple of hundred" you speak of is actually over 400 to date, and the number increases every time we apply a new piece of technology towards looking. And they did point out the more interesting ones - 4 of the new planets discovered are less than +6 earth masses. As we create better technology with greater and greater resolution, we will find the ones that are interesting (or earth sized anyway, all new planets a
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jfdawes (254678)
    • by Opyros (1153335)

      OMG, there's lot of planets out there

      No, no — the line is "Oh my god, it's full of planets!"

  • Deep within the structure of the telescope, someone asked "does anyone know if this spider is poisonous?"

  • Also news from (Score:4, Informative)

    by physburn (1095481) on Monday October 19, 2009 @05:49PM (#29800689) Homepage Journal
    You can also find the story on Physorg News [physorg.com] and Space.com. The discoveries where not all at once BTW, the HARPS telescopes been running since 2004, and found the 32 planets over that period, using just 100 nights observing time per year.

    ---

    Extra Solar Planets [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

  • The larger question is, how many of these are enemy planets? I'm going to say at least half, if not more.
    • by nrgy (835451) *
      Indeed, I'm almost certain the system lords have recognized the value of these planets and have dispatched units to the area.
    • by Per Wigren (5315)
      On a more serious note, I'm more interested in which planets are Class M.
  • Errata (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "An article on CNN describes that 32 exoplanets have been discovered using a new Chilean telescope. The telescope is capable of detecting movement 2.1mph (comparable to a slow walking pace)."

    • HARPS is a spectrograph [wikipedia.org], not a telescope.
    • It's not Chilean, it's a European instrument mounted on a European telescope that are currently installed in a Chilean observatory.
    • The HARPS can detect Doppler shifts as small as 1 m/s. That's 3.6 km/hr. Why CNN would round that to 3.5 km/hr beats me--but then to convert that value to 2.1mph instead of 2.2mph, is beyond me.
  • by DoninIN (115418)
    Did it find pluto back? I heard we lost Pluto a while back.
  • let the flamewars begin.

  • Do they have stargates on them?

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