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Space Science

50 New Exoplanets Found, Billions More Await 208

Posted by Soulskill
from the billions-and-billions dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers using a sensitive spectrograph have just announced the existence of 50 more planets orbiting nearby Sun-like stars. The important things to note: 1) Sixteen of them are super-Earths, and 2) 40% of all Sun-like stars appear to have at least one planet with less mass than Saturn."
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50 New Exoplanets Found, Billions More Await

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  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday September 12, 2011 @02:37PM (#37379882)

    That is the last thing I want to hear. All full of Life forms that are use to gravity much greater then what we are use full. If they beat us to space they will land on earth being smarter and stronger then us. I like the Old Grays small stature and wimpy. Sure they may have massive mental powers but I can really whack them hard with a big stick.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm guessing that you're either being silly or haven't taken your medication, but since there are no stupid questions and lots of other people are probably wondering about this, the second link points out that the increase in gravity isn't all that much: "For example, a planet with 5 times Earth’s mass but twice the radius would have a surface gravity only 20% higher than Earth; if you weighed 150 pounds here you’d weigh 180 pounds there."

      That being said, there's always the anthropic principle t

      • You are missing the main rule of Science Fiction. Humans are always the best balanced species.
        If Aliens are strong then us then we are smarter then them. If Aliens are smarter then us then we are stronger then they are. If they are both stronger and smarter then us then humans are more creative or adaptable.

        That is why I kinda like the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur Dent is so unremarkable that he is spending most of the time trying to stay out of everybody ways. And the rest of the human popul

        • by dasunt (249686)

          You are missing the main rule of Science Fiction. Humans are always the best balanced species. If Aliens are strong then us then we are smarter then them. If Aliens are smarter then us then we are stronger then they are. If they are both stronger and smarter then us then humans are more creative or adaptable.

          That is why I kinda like the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Arthur Dent is so unremarkable that he is spending most of the time trying to stay out of everybody ways. And the rest of the human popu

          • Actually, the one thing humans seem to have a knack for in the Uplift series is Uplifting things. Without being told we should be doing it we Uplifted two species to an almost independent level and got a third well on its way, all without having the Library to draw on.

        • There is plenty of Science fiction refuting your statement about humans always being portrayed as the best balanced species. Chances are any exterrestrial capable of reaching earth would most likely ignore us as primitive savages and continue thier explorations else where in their search for intelligent life.
        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          So we are just the lousy MOR race like in most RPGs? Not the fastest, smartest, strongest, just plain vanilla average across the board. We're like the unseasoned mashed potatoes of races! We're Oatmeal with no cinnamon!

          As for TFA, we care about this.....why exactly? Personally I find it depressing as hell, its like "Hey look, here is another bunch of planets we will never see in person nor step foot on isn't that great?". What is the point when our engine tech frankly isn't any better than what they had

      • by vlm (69642) on Monday September 12, 2011 @03:33PM (#37380528)

        ... the increase in gravity isn't all that much: "For example, a planet with 5 times Earth’s mass but twice the radius ...

        So, they're saying its kind of like the difference in average weight between shopping at Target vs Walmart? I guess thats OK then.

        • Well... that depends. Do you consider either of those cases to be "life"?
          • by tibit (1762298)

            I know you're trying to be funny, but I'm taking offense at being considered some lowlife (or no-life) simply because Walmart is within walking distance...

            • You walk ro a Walmart? Clearly it is you who are an alien in these parts.

            • Honestly, the GGP mangled his post and was talking about the act of shopping having different weights. I was poking fun at the inexplicable grammatical failure in a quasi-edgy way. I guess that was a bit of a whoosh moment.
              • by tibit (1762298)

                ;) I'll let you get away with mostly anything. Special biologist exception. Call it reverse discrimination if you will.

      • by idji (984038)
        You are right the the increase of surface gravity is only 25% for a planet 5 times Earth's weight and twice it's radius, but it is not a place to support life....
        The Earth's mean density=5.15 g/cm^3
        Iron has a density =7.87 g/cm^3
        The Earth's inner core of 1200 km is mostly iron with a density near 12 g/cm^3, so that tells you the type of pressure the iron is under.
        density of Earth's layers [wikipedia.org]
        Most rocks have a density < 3 g/cm^3
        so I think "your" planet, which has a density of 3.219g/cm^3, has most
        • "unless it is a water-world (what else is liquid or low density in the habitable zone?) with incredibly immense ocean depths" Um, the home world of Jar-Jar Binks?
          • "unless it is a water-world (what else is liquid or low density in the habitable zone?) with incredibly immense ocean depths" Um, the home world of Jar-Jar Binks?

            Naboo also had enough land for a spacefaring human civilization.

        • I'm not an astrophysicist; it's not "my" planet. That was a direct quote from the second link in the summary. Why is everyone having trouble with that today?
    • by alen (225700)

      why will they come here if they have FTL travel? to steal our endless energy supply of incandescent light bulbs, coal power, internal combustion engines, and fission nuclear reactors?

      • No. For the reality TV. Do you know how many intergalactic civilizations it's decimated? Terrae delenda est.
      • If they are super Aliens then we are probably meaty animals with soft bones that they can easily chew up.

        • If they are super Aliens then we are probably meaty animals with soft bones that they can easily chew up.

          Any species capable of interstellar travel must, by definition, be a social species. It's not the type you technology you can achieve without cooperation. I personally believe that the concept of an alien species who would have no qualms about destroying another sentient species is science fiction, and nothing more.

          Anyone capable of coming here would be much more interested in our cultures than in our meat. Earth has plenty of other animals we'd be happy to share with them at a table while talking about

          • Any species capable of interstellar travel must, by definition, be a social species. It's not the type you technology you can achieve without cooperation.

            I suggest to read Larry Nievens Kzin Cycle to get cured from your illusions ... or play eve online.

            As soon as there is no police most "humans" will do what they can do ... I saw the "you loot, we shoot" signs in the windows of the houses in the flood of New Orleans.

            • I think this whole "we're lawless sociopaths at heart" line can be overplayed. Yes, there are riots and there are looting, but if humans were truly as sociopathic as some make out, law and order would be impossible. What I think most riots, for instance, demonstrate is not how lone wolf we can be, but quite the opposite, how immediate peer pressure can make even sensible people behave badly. In short, people tend follow the strongest personalities, and as often as strong personalities may be leading peop

              • by maugle (1369813)

                Think about it, do you think chimps when they make war on an enemy tribe (the only other critter besides us on the planet who does such a thing), that they're exhibiting sociopathic tendencies, or in fact, exhibiting just how powerful social tribalism can be?

                Nitpick: ants do that, too, and with better tactics.

                • Ants are social organisms, but it a completely different way. Hive societies are a different creature entirely.

          • by kdemetter (965669)

            I don't know : we seem to have no problem killing off our own species, much less other species on this planet.

            At our current stage, and encounter with an alien species would be disastrous for us.
            So if they mean well , they will avoid interaction at all cost.

            So if aliens do interact with us in the near future , they probably won't mean well.

      • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday September 12, 2011 @03:05PM (#37380226)

        Maybe they'd conquer Earth to turn it into some sort of weird alien spa. "Take a relaxing trip to Terra 3! Bask in the warming rays of Terra's star. The lighter gravity will make you feel years younger. All of your needs will be catered to by Terran slaves. We don't even mind if you break a few. We've got billions more."

        • by vlm (69642)

          Maybe they'd conquer Earth to turn it into some sort of weird alien spa. ... All of your needs will be catered to by Terran slaves. We don't even mind if you break a few. We've got billions more.

          Multinational corporation CEO's are space aliens?

          • Multinational corporation CEO's are space aliens?

            Almost exactly the premise behind the "Black hole Travel Agency" series of books, By Jack Mckinney

        • by timepilot (116247)

          "Take a relaxing trip to Terra 3! ..."

          That's Sol 3.

          • Thank you for your input, puny human. You've been both helpful and delicious. *licks pedipalps*

      • For our gold. Obviously.
      • by hansraj (458504)

        Our planet has a very energetic core. Any civilization having that kind of technology could be interested in harvesting it (They also get a huge core made of solid iron as a bonus!)

    • We can only hope that their bodies had to spend more energy on supportive body mass and fibers than brain power. But if they are landing here then they made at least some of the qualifying grade for brains which is indeed scary. But think of the inverse!

      I just can't imagine being the person to investigate the surface of a super earth if we could land on them (hypothetical of course). I just can't help but think there would be a risk of breaking a leg just by falling while walking or jumping. Never mind the
      • by tibit (1762298)

        Even if the surface gravity would be twice Earth's, I'm sure it'd be manageable. In a few weeks you'd get used to it. Of course you'd have joint problems not unlike those fat people have, but hey, all in the name of science :)

      • We can only hope that their bodies had to spend more energy on supportive body mass and fibers than brain power. But if they are landing here then they made at least some of the qualifying grade for brains which is indeed scary. But think of the inverse! I just can't imagine being the person to investigate the surface of a super earth if we could land on them (hypothetical of course). I just can't help but think there would be a risk of breaking a leg just by falling while walking or jumping. Never mind the blackout risk trying to do anything useful like climb a hill on a body with 4-5 times earth gravity. Humans do OK for a while with less gravity before our bodies have problems, but we are really pretty bad in an environment with more of it.

        If we could manage to travel to a Super Earth in any sort of reasonable time frame, I would think dealing with the gravity upon arrival would be a trivial problem. We would likely have invented "artificial gravity" along the way. Along with a bunch of other science fiction.

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Like the aliens from Galactica 1980?
    • We use gravitational lensing to find these planets. Smaller planets are harder to find. Less gravity, less lensing.

      So it's not surprising to find the bigger stuff first. I'm sure there are plenty of other planets with wimpy earth like size and gravity waiting to be found.

  • Do any of them appear strangely, completely metallic?

  • They prefer to call their own planets "Krypton"
  • Threat (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Monday September 12, 2011 @02:45PM (#37379974) Homepage

    The problem is that if these planets do indeed harbour life, it could be at least as technologically advanced, if not more than us. This means that they pose a threat to our planet.

    I say that we concentrate all our efforts into building space faring vehicles capable of travelling to these planets with the soul intent of destroying them. Before they destroy us.

    If you find this too ridiculous then imagine Rick Perry saying it :)

    • Re:Threat (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday September 12, 2011 @02:51PM (#37380050) Journal
      We call those "Berserker Probes [wikipedia.org]"...

      Pretty much the game-theory asshole's take on colonization via Von Neumman machines. The argument goes that, in an environment where diplomatic missives can only travel at the speed of light, and hypothetical relativistic kinetic-kill vehicles a few factors of ten slower, you have to do unto others before they do unto you...
    • Somehow, your "soul/sole" typo makes your comment even funnier.

      Perry: "My fellow Americans, we must build space faring vehicles and faster than light engines to destroy alien life before they destroy us. God and Jesus told me we need to. Our souls depend on it!"

      Of course, his R&D method of praying for divine FTL engine designs probably wouldn't work too quickly.

    • by vlm (69642)

      If you find this too ridiculous then imagine Rick Perry saying it :)

      Didn't have the world "god" in it, seems unlikely.

    • by Livius (318358)

      That seems like more of an anti-soul intent, especially if it's the sole intent.

  • by WebManWalking (1225366) on Monday September 12, 2011 @02:59PM (#37380150)
    Best one I've ever lived on, in fact.
  • Has anyone been filling the terms to the drake equation as we narrow down the ranges for the various terms?
    • I had the same question. What I'm curious to know is how random their sample of sun-like stars is. If they cherry picked them, their results can't be used for estimating Drake parameters. (But who could blame them their first couple times out?)

      Note 3 of the article:
      "the planets found by HARPS are around stars close to the Sun. This makes them better targets for many kinds of additional follow-up observations"

      Note 8 is also relevant:
      "With large numbers of measurements, the detection sensitivity of HARPS i

    • by Artifakt (700173)

      The standard Drake equation isn't really very useful, and most Xenobiologists don't take it as a serious tool to describe their subject.

      1. When people first started putting methane and ammonia in flasks and running lightning through them (the Miller–Urey experiment in 1952), some scientists actually applied that to the Drake equation soon after, and said that they could now put a number on the Drake term for how likely life was to begin. The experiment implied a very high number, effectively demonstra

  • about HARPS (Score:5, Informative)

    by ThorGod (456163) on Monday September 12, 2011 @03:01PM (#37380176) Journal

    This is likely to be informative:

    "HARPS is the ESO facility for the measurement of radial velocities with the highest accuracy currently available. It is fibre-fed by the Cassegrain focus of the 3.6m telescope in La Silla.
    The instrument is built to obtain very high long term radial velocity accuracy (on the order of 1 m/s). To achieve this goal, HARPS is designed as an echelle spectrograph fed by a pair of fibres and optimised for mechanical stability. It is contained in a vacuum vessel to avoid spectral drift due to temperature and air pressure variations. One of the two fibres collects the star light, while the second is used to either record simultaneously a Th-Ar reference spectrum or the background sky. The two HARPS fibres (object + sky or Th-Ar) have an aperture on the sky of 1"; this produces a resolving power of 115,000 in the spectrograph. Both fibres are equipped with an image scrambler to provide a uniform spectrograph pupil illumination, independent of pointing decentering."

    1.) It's an optical telescope.
    2.) It's on the face of the earth (I find this amazing.)

    I got the impression from Frank Drake's book that astronomy was 'best done' by satellite radio telescope.

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      Forgot the reference: http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/lasilla/instruments/harps/overview.html

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I got the impression from Frank Drake's book that astronomy was 'best done' by satellite radio telescope.

      Well there's two things:
      1) Some things just aren't observable from earth, certain parts of the spectrum don't reach us.
      2) Atmospheric distortion, like you see the air shimmer in the desert on a very warm day.

      The first one is still real. The second one we now have huge computers that compensate for it, it's by no means easy yet still easier than blasting massive yet incredibly precise and fragile telescopes into space. And we still place our observatories high in the mountains to avoid as much as possible. O

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday September 12, 2011 @03:59PM (#37380838) Journal

    There is one think I really wish I'd see in the summary: what stage of "discovery" are we at. Is this the first pass of the raw data? Or is this confirmation of unconfirmed data. We've seen some pretty high-profile new planets evaporate into thin air^h^h^h^h ether.

    At the same time, I am still excited about this explosion of new discovery. If, somehow, we can continue to not self-destruct for another 50 years or so, we will see a cataloging of our galaxy that was only imagined in science fiction

  • by cvtan (752695) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:13PM (#37381464)
    This is really earth-shattering news, so to speak. Lets see. If each one of those planets has 50 creation stories, then... AARRGGHH! (head explodes).
  • I'm sure that, with all the earth-like planets we find, we will STILL only find one where the advanced and powerful race has consistently worked against exploring all that it sees.... Earth
  • Given the odds, surely its a mathematical certainty there's at least 2-3 replicas of earth in our galaxy alone...
  • We're just doomed to peering at them through telescopes, either on the ground or in LEO and guessing what it must be like to actually land on them. It's not like anyone's going to be able to reach them anytime soon, or is even working towards interplanetary (let alone interstellar) travel, with NASA going on facing budget cuts.

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