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Space Science

11 New Multi-Planet Star Systems Discovered 109

Posted by timothy
from the ok-now-sort-on-forest-moon dept.
astroengine writes "The number of known multi-planetary star systems has just tripled. What's more, the Kepler space telescope science team has just announced that they have doubled the number of confirmed exoplanetary sightings made by the observatory. Some of the newly discovered worlds are only 1.5 times the size of Earth, while others are bigger than Jupiter. Fifteen exoplanets are between Earth and Neptune in size, but further observations will be needed to determine if any have a rocky surface like Earth, or a gaseous consistency like Neptune."
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11 New Multi-Planet Star Systems Discovered

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  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @06:52PM (#38834445) Homepage

    This isn't going well. Every month there are new planets, new solar systems.

    Soon we'll be surrounded!

    • :D

      All these planet discoveries. It kind of gets boring, after a while.

      But then: how friggin cool is that?
      When I was a kid, Science fiction was about all those worlds that maybe could be out there. Now we know they are there.

      • I was a little surprised that everyone got excited when the first exoplanets were discovered. I've had the conviction that there must be millions of other planets out there since childhood. The main reason is that it's a logical assumption. Since there are so many planets in our own solar system, why should other stars systems be different? The other reason is probably Star Wars.

        But yes, I do realize it's nice that we now have actual proof that they are really there.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          I was a little surprised that everyone got excited when the first exoplanets were discovered. I've had the conviction that there must be millions of other planets out there since childhood. The main reason is that it's a logical assumption. Since there are so many planets in our own solar system, why should other stars systems be different? The other reason is probably Star Wars.

          But yes, I do realize it's nice that we now have actual proof that they are really there.

          And that's good enough .. until such time as we make contact (or are made contact with.) Inhabitants of those planets could come here and say, "Wow! Let's take some of that water, they don't need it all!" Yep. Careful wishing for alien contact.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            "You don't invite your neighbors over for dinner until you know whether they are cannibals or not" was that Asimov or Clarke that said that? I think if aliens ever bothered to show up frankly it wouldn't be close encounters OR ID4, simply because any race with technology so far advanced that FTL travel was possible could have all the resources they could ever desire at their fingertips. nope most likely what we'd get is tourists doing their own Gorillas in the mist.

            as for TFA frankly i'm more curious abou

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              Since they will have evolved in a completely different way, it's unlikely they would think we were very tasty. Think about how nasty spiders and scorpions would taste, we could even be a deadly poison to them. They may not even be made out of meat! [baetzler.de]

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Most people didn't know that we had not seen other planets until fairly recently.
        • by jd (1658)

          From a science perspective, it was certain other planets were out there - what wasn't certain was whether we could see them, what they'd be like or how common they were. All of those were completely up-in-the-air. (Plenty of stars with accretion disks had been observed, so we knew that the pre-requisites for planet formation were commonplace, but we had no idea how many disks formed just rubble - as with Alpha Centauri - and how many formed actual planets. As it turned out, almost everything theorized about

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        Now what would be exciting is a means to get something there in our lifetimes.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          You'll either have to prove Einstein wrong or find some sort of a loophole for that to happen. But who knows, maybe they will? I never thought I'd be able to get a cyborg implant that not only let me throw my thick glasses away but even gave me better than 20/20 vision, so who knows? I'm probably wrong, my journal next Wednesday will demonstrat how abysmal I am at predicting the future. I suck as a prophet...

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      This isn't going well. Every month there are new planets, new solar systems.

      Soon we'll be surrounded!

      Hollywood must be salivating at the prospect of forcing SOPA upon each and every one of them, too.

    • by Tripkipke (840128)

      Who else read that as "multi-player star systems"?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can I travel between them with a multipass?

  • Rocky? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @06:55PM (#38834467)

    rocky surface like Earth

    More like a liquid surface, statistically speaking.

    • rocky surface like Earth

      More like a liquid surface, statistically speaking.

      When you pick up the Earth in your hands it feels like a damp rock.

    • by jd (1658)

      Well, no, the oceans are not considered a part of the surface as far as planetary science is concerned.

      • by PPH (736903)
        What about the atmosphere?
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        I believe I'm about to be educated a little more today. Could you elaborate? After all, we consider Jupiter to be a gas giant, does it lack a core? Europa is covered in ice, what is it considered to be (and yes, I know it's a sattelite)?

        Why isn't water considered when discussing what a planet's surface is?

  • Planets are like porn chicks, you can see them, but you will never touch one.

    • You mean you don't want to boldly go where LOADS of others have gone before?

      See what I did there?

  • by forkfail (228161) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @07:06PM (#38834569)

    ... one of the following appears to be at least probable:

    1. There really is something weird about our dual-planet system (tides, etc) that makes life truly rare.

    2. It really is impossible to go FTL, meaning we're stuck in our system, and had probably stop treating it more like a sewer than not. (Also: 50 generations to Motie-hood!)

    3. Intelligent life has a propensity to kill itself off.

    Doesn't look so good for us.

    • by ModernGeek (601932) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @07:14PM (#38834631) Homepage
      I'd consider the fourth option, that we've only had human history for 6,000 years, good records for less than probably 2,000, and that we're in the boondocks. If we had been visited, the chance is that there just isn't evidence of it, and that we'll either have to wait to be visited again, hope that other civilizations see our radio transmissions and see it as worthwhile to come here, or go out there on our own and see what's out there. The problem is that our technology is young, we are young, and there really isn't anything that interesting about us.
      • If there IS intelligent life out there, I have serious doubts that they consider us being under the same umbrella as them. As nerdy as it sounds, I think something like what is presented in Star Trek would need to happen first. Either the development of FTL travel, the cleaning up of our planet to a degree where we aren't killing it or each other anymore would need to take place before any alien life wants anything to do with us. Probably all that and even more.

        Either that or we could get lucky and just dis

        • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @07:36PM (#38834779)

          Maybe they took a look at how we treat the rest of the planet's people.

          We don't help the thousands of people dying of thirst in Africa. Unemployed drug addicts are put in prison instead of rehab. We'll dump our waste where our kids will find it. We use slave labour to make our toys.

          Then they decided that our overall planetary mores are to not help, and they are respecting the wishes of our species.

          Or maybe we're the equivalent of goldfish, except not as cute and we can't be housebroken.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            We don't help the thousands of people dying of thirst in Africa.

            And despite all the deaths in Africa, they still have the fastest growing population on the planet...

            • by hazah (807503)
              Of all the things to respond to in that comment you say this? Who said anything about population growth? That they deliberatly prevented from getting birth control isn't the same problem as the rampant starvation attributed in large to politics, rather than ability or capacity.
          • by tbird81 (946205)

            Every civilization and population has to evolve. To evolve we need competition.

            Ever since the first RNA molecules started grabbing nucleotides off each other to duplicate there has been competition. There's always finite resources, and those that can take them can survive (and reproduce) better.

            Any successful person, and any successful population, always has some advantage that gets resources in the current environment. No species survives if they don't have competitive strategies. An alien is not going to

            • by Jappus (1177563)

              Any successful person, and any successful population, always has some advantage that gets resources in the current environment. No species survives if they don't have competitive strategies. An alien is not going to have some completely egalitarian civilization - they wouldn't evolve if they did.

              Who ever said, that it is only the body that needs to evolve? Maybe, to be a long term resident of the Universe, the average collection of meatbags have to first grasp the concept and accept the full consequences of the fact that they also need to allow their minds, mores and intelligence to evolve.

              After all, just like you inherit your genetic code, society at large inherits its cultural, moral and intellectual signature. If that signature is not on par with surviving for a long time as a society/species, t

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              To evolve we need competition.

              I think you completely misunderstand evolution. Evolution isn't a fight, it's an adaptation. If the environment changes, you adapt to the new environment or you die. If the envoronment stays the same and you change, you'll likely die. You could say that lions were competing with gazelles, but it would be incorrect -- if the gazelles die, so do the lions. If you eat all the food, you starve. If it gets warm enough that your sustinance no longer grows, you either adapt and eat ot

              • by tbird81 (946205)

                I wouldn't say lions are competing with gazelles. I'd say lions are competing with other lions to eat the gazelles, and the gazelles are competing amongst each other to GTFO the fastest. That's why lions are pretty strong, and gazelles are pretty fast.

                Humans are successful because of a mixture of cooperation and competition. Plenty of other organisms have cooperative behaviours - but only they result in a net benefit to the average organism. Too much cooperation will always result in people taking advantage

        • by the gnat (153162) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @07:44PM (#38834843)

          If there IS intelligent life out there, I have serious doubts that they consider us being under the same umbrella as them

          Actually, that's my least favorite Star Trek cliche - the benevolent, highly-evolved, omnipotent alien race that sees humans as mere children, either unworthy of their time, or in need of friendly guidance (and hectoring lectures about killing each other). I would say exactly the opposite is more likely to be true: any alien species aggressive and inventive enough to explore space is guaranteed to have endured warfare and ecological destruction in recent memory. Species that lose their aggression will stay at home smoking pot, eating takeout, and watching cartoons until they all die of boredom and/or congestive heart failure. That doesn't mean that they'll find our behavior at all intelligible; if a space-faring race was highly collectivist (either by evolution or by engineering), they might find our individuality and the violence that it often leads to incomprehensible. But I doubt they'll have managed to avoid strip mining, fossil fuels, or nuclear fission in the course of their technological development, and they'll probably engage in practices that we would find abhorrent, like compulsory euthanasia.

          That doesn't necessarily mean that they'll advertise their presence to us - there are a number of good reasons to avoid doing so, which would apply even if we were a pacifistic agrarian species. But I absolutely think they would study us, because they won't even be exploring interstellar space unless they were either exceptionally curious, or exceptionally desperate. I personally find it more likely that intelligent life rarely makes it out of their home solar system in person - although I'd wager that there are a few scattered derelicts full of cryogenically frozen alien colonists drifting for centuries.

          • Maybe. But you'd have to think that any species at that point where they have left their planet and are exploring space would have strict rules about interfering with species that aren't at their level yet. Study? I can see that. But I don't think they would be studying us with a smile on their face and nostalgia in their hearts about our possibly similar pasts. If anything, they'd want to keep an eye on us to make sure we don't go down the wrong road with the technology necessary to be able to start effect
            • by the gnat (153162)

              But you'd have to think that any species at that point where they have left their planet and are exploring space would have strict rules about interfering with species that aren't at their level yet

              Sure, but those strict rules wouldn't necessarily be an enlightened policy of non-interference and remote observation - they could just as well be "Nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." I guess this is Stephen Hawking's scenario, and it seems at least as probable to me as the sanctimonious higher

            • by bronney (638318)

              And yet we interfere with countless different species on a daily basis here on Earth. Trust me, we like touching thing and when the day comes, we WILL touch them.

          • Well, we are still here. I mean, during those 4 billions of years of Earth's history, nobody strip-mined it into a wasteland.

            Thus we can conclude that if some species similar to us is out there, either it is growing way too slowly (slower than we could grow with fission powered rockets if we decide to make them), it is a very recent species (like we), or we got extemely (or, should I say astronomicaly) lucky. Anyway that goes, it is an argument for rare Earth, just not as rare as stating that we are alone o

            • Well, we are still here. I mean, during those 4 billions of years of Earth's history, nobody strip-mined it into a wasteland.

              Are you sure?

              http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/extinction_events [bbc.co.uk]

              • You're right. I can't be sure.

                Yet, none of those events compare in intensity to what we are currently making with Earth, so I can be suspicious... But not sure.

          • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday January 26, 2012 @08:48PM (#38835291) Homepage Journal

            I don't see why so many people equate aggression with the thirst for discovery. Aggressive societies don't always do much in the way of exploration (several of the Andeman Island cultures being examples) and have a propensity to self-destruct when they expand too far (the Romans, the Norse, the British and the Americans being examples).

            True, passive societies don't always do much in the way of expansion either, but to assume that this is a purely linear spectrum just doesn't match what we know of societies or indeed people.

            Even the simplest models of individual behavior need four independent variables (Briggs-Meyers) and these clearly differentiate between tendencies to discover vs. tendencies to control. Politics is usually defined along three additional axes which do not equate to any of the behavioral axes. Aggression-Passivity isn't amongst any of the axes so far, so we need to add that as well. So societies require at least 8 parameters to describe them, probably a great deal more.

            We aren't remotely advanced enough to know what ranges of values within what parameters would make for safe vs unsafe contact. 95% of the problems between cultures on Earth are down to that fact alone - and that's with us being 99.5% identical. We certainly can't begin to figure out what the requirements are for safe contact with life that evolved along totally independent paths.

            • by the gnat (153162)

              We aren't remotely advanced enough to know what ranges of values within what parameters would make for safe vs unsafe contact

              I mostly agree - but as with any other discussion of extraterrestrial life, we can make informed guesses based on observation of life here on Earth. At any rate, my comment wasn't so much trying to posit "this is the way things must be" as it was a reaction to the common supposition that any life intelligent and sophisticated enough for interstellar travel would also be ethically mor

              • The history of the 20th century shows that technological achievement and superior ethics, or environmental consciousness, do not necessarily go hand in hand where humans are concerned. Why assume otherwise for aliens?

                I'd say there are two possible outcomes as technology advances.

                1) As weapons become ever more advanced, we suddenly realise that we are all in the same boat and using said weapons is really a stupid idea. Not ethics as such, but hopefully a more cooperative approach.
                2) We use the weapons...

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            I would say exactly the opposite is more likely to be true: any alien species aggressive and inventive enough to explore space is guaranteed to have endured warfare and ecological destruction in recent memory.

            Your mistake is that exploration isn't driven by agression, but by curiosity or necessity.

            Species that lose their aggression will stay at home smoking pot, eating takeout, and watching cartoons until they all die of boredom and/or congestive heart failure.

            Nope, not losing agression but losing curiosity

            • by the gnat (153162)

              You live in Texas, don't you?

              I live in California, asshole.

              If we were the individualists you think we are, we would have died out as a species fifty thousand years ago.

              We certainly are individualists compared to ants and bees, and you are confusing "social" with "collectivist". Although relatively few societies in human history have considered the rights of the individual to be paramount, even fewer were genuinely collectivist - European welfare states do not count.

              The reason we find compulsory eithanasia

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          If FTL travel were possible, we should have been invaded and colonized millions of years ago.

          One species could colonize the whole galaxy in a few thousand years.

          • If FTL travel were possible, we should have been invaded and colonized millions of years ago.

            One species could colonize the whole galaxy in a few thousand years.

            Not necessarily. What happens if FTL travel is possible, but is limited in some sense such as cost, danger or another hazard that we cannot even guess at? What would happen if the best you can do with FTL technology is stuff some fungi through a wormhole? Maybe you could only send mechanical probes?

            FTL transport, if it exists at all, is not likely going to look like some Star Trek rerun. We might not even be able to comprehend what it looks or acts like.

          • If FTL travel were possible, we should have been invaded and colonized millions of years ago.

            Perhaps we were.

      • by mhajicek (1582795)
        If they're anything like us I hope they're not interested in stopping by. Quoth the Hawking: "That didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."
      • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Thursday January 26, 2012 @07:34PM (#38834765) Homepage

        I'd consider the fourth option, that we've only had human history for 6,000 years, good records for less than probably 2,000, and that we're in the boondocks. If we had been visited, the chance is that there just isn't evidence of it, and that we'll either have to wait to be visited again, hope that other civilizations see our radio transmissions and see it as worthwhile to come here, or go out there on our own and see what's out there. The problem is that our technology is young, we are young, and there really isn't anything that interesting about us.

        I have a fifth option. Maybe our level technology and scientific understanding is NOT the be all and end all of the universe, and we are looking for the wrong things. Imagine a colony of ants deciding that there is no life other than ants because no one else (humans) is reading and answering their chemical trails. The ants have no idea that we use sound to communicate, and cars to travel. Believing that radio communication and launching hunks of steal into the cosmos for travel are the only options may be very presumptuous. Give us about a million years to mature as a species, and then maybe we'll be able to "see" what's really around us.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Unlike your hypothetical ant-human, we can observe and acknowledge other forms of communication ... such as ant chemical trails... Thus we are not so naive as your analogy would suggest. Not that we couldn't be ignorant of galaxy scale communication systems, but we're better equiped than you suggest.

      • by arisvega (1414195)

        I'd consider the fourth option [..] The problem is that our technology is young, we are young

        Fifth option, turning your fourth option around: life on Earth is from a 'first batch', of the first appearances of life in the Universe, and beings from Earth may very well end up being the "Ancient Visitors" for other planets some 100,000 years from now, after of course the token dark age of genetic experimentation, colonization and looting.

        If the Universe is indeed ~14Gy old, and Earth is ~4.5Gy old (at around a third the Universe's age), with the astronomical distances and probabilities and all, maybe t

      • by w0mprat (1317953)

        I'd consider the fourth option, that we've only had human history for 6,000 years, good records for less than probably 2,000, and that we're in the boondocks. If we had been visited, the chance is that there just isn't evidence of it, and that we'll either have to wait to be visited again, hope that other civilizations see our radio transmissions and see it as worthwhile to come here, or go out there on our own and see what's out there. The problem is that our technology is young, we are young, and there really isn't anything that interesting about us.

        I'd consider a different option. If they can cross interstellar space, what need would they have of anything at the bottom of a gravity well? Would they even be terribly interested in is? For all we know we might not be terribly interesting - we think we're at an impressive peak of our civilization now, but we may have hundreds of years to go before we're worth talking to. Till then we're probably more scientifically useful to another civilization remaining undisturbed and un-contacted, especially as we'd b

    • by bky1701 (979071)
      Maybe we're a galactic wildlife preserve. Or maybe an experiment...
    • by CRCulver (715279)

      There's the four option, namely that intelligent races quickly evolve onto some higher plane and they don't stick around their home planet or even the visible universe. Vernor Vinge's novel Marooned in Realtime [amazon.com] has some interesting speculations about the possibility of a technological singularity and how it might explain the apparent lack of other intelligent civilizations.

      2. It really is impossible to go FTL, meaning we're stuck in our system, and had probably stop treating it more like a sewer than not.

    • by jcgam69 (994690)
      Of all the millions of species that have lived on earth we are the only one to develop technology. We are rare.
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      More likely, we are like your neighbor that lives 2 block down, and stays inside all the time. Sure you know they are their, but have you taken the time to go and introduce yourself? There are people and places all around us that we don't interact with. Why would that be any different when one leaves their star system.

      Heck. In my first home, I had one cupboard that I looked in once when I bought the house, nailed it shut, and never saw the inside again until I remolded the kitchen 6 years later.
      • by pyronide (2440046)
        calvin and hobbes: "The surest sign that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universes that none of it has contacted us."
    • by Kjella (173770)

      1. There really is something weird about our dual-planet system (tides, etc) that makes life truly rare.

      Possibly, or maybe it's converting from natural attributes to artificial attributes that is rare. I mean, it took billions of years from the first life until we came along and humans are not particularly strong or fast or have good claws or fangs to capture pray or defend ourselves, nor the natural ability to survive most of the climates we live in. We survived by making weapons, tools, housing and clothes, but just barely. We almost went extinct 70000 years ago with only a few thousand humans left alive -

    • Motie-hood is not the only solution to a trapped species. It is not even the most common. The most common solution is either some kind of predation to appear or to that species reproduce slower, stabilizing the population.

      Now, don't ask me about what mechanism makes evolution select individuals that reproduce slowly on top predators. I'm quite amazed they do that.

    • by jd (1658)

      The first of those is known to be true.

      Life on Earth required the tilt of the planet to lie within a very specific range, the wobble to be within an extremely narrow range, the magnetic field to be fairly intense AND come from the primary planet (the moon is almost entirely lighter elements blasted up from the original surface of Proto-Earth and the colliding planetoid, the modern core of Earth is the merging of the two proto-planet cores, and by implication both proto-planets must have been inner planets w

    • How about this option:
      Would YOU trust US with a Warp Drive?!

      I think the answer is very very simple: Just beyond the Oort Cloud, sits a Universally Translatable Sign:
      "Quarantine Zone - Human Infestation.
      We apologize for the inconvenience."
      -God

    • Here's my guess:

      Nothing intelligent enough to capture our EM emissions lives close enough to have somehow replied by now. By "close enough" I mean within 50 or 60 light-years of us, although the limit might be smaller than that. (I wonder how strong some of our earliest radio and TV signals are, from the perspective of some alien's SETI program.) Smart/wealthy aliens living closer than about 5 to 10 ly could have visited us by now without requiring novel physics (e.g., nuclear pulse propulsion).

      Each plan

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      3. Intelligent life has a propensity to kill itself off.

      What's your evidence? So far we only know of one intelligent species, and it hasn't managed to commit suicide yet. OTOH, a non-intelligent life form killed itself off by introducing oxygen into the atmosphere long before intelligence developed.

      Now, killing OTHER species off, that's a different matter.

  • If there's life out there and life's possible to detect from a distance, then I'd bet we've already been spotted.

    Granted, I don't mean humans, but the existence of life on our planet. Depending on how prevalent life is, that may or may not be interesting at all, in and of itself.

    • If there is some technological civilization out there that is a bit more advanced than we are, they probably already know that there is an unexplainable amount of oxygen and methane in our athmosphere. That means, yes, life like us is detectable from a distance, and we even know how to do that.

      The only reason that we aren't trying yet to detect it is because we aren't in space yet. If we start building things in space, that becomes trivial.

  • by segwonk (1064462) <jwinn@earthlink.net> on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:57AM (#38836499)
    I wish that someone knowledgeable about planetary formation could help me out here...

    I seem to recall reading a theory many years ago (circa mid 1990s) about the expected/predicted pattern of planetary formation. That is, it was thought that planets would form from an accretion disc around a star in a mass-pattern that approximated a horizontal line from a Pascal Triangle. e.g.:

    1 6 15 20 15 6 1

    Translated to our solar system, you have the big gas giants Jupiter & Saturn in the middle, and smaller bodies Pluto and Mercury at the extremes. It's not a perfect model, but I've always felt that these gas giants that have been detected around other stars should also have a number of smaller planets in their systems.

    But I have not seen reference to that idea again since then. I'm beginning to wonder if I imagined it, but I'm not that smart.

    Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

    - jw
    • by arisvega (1414195)

      the history of the Titius-Bode Law

      Perhaps I 'm not the authority on planetary formation, but I got an idea or two about it- especially since I am apparently answering questions about it on a Friday evening. The 'law' (Titius-Bode) mentioned by AC below is for distances, not masses: but AFAIK there have been some attempts to make fits on all those new Kepler data, and it seems promising: knock yourself out here [arxiv.org] and here [harvard.edu]. Personally I wouldn't be very surprised to discover a power law distribution, as this is often the case.

      I haven't heard an

  • My boss has asked me to visit each of these planets to sell some crap on their doorsteps. Can anyone tell me the most efficient route between theme all that will take the least amount of space fuel? It would also help if you could tell me how many parsecs of time it would take, I'm hoping no more than 12
    • by arisvega (1414195)

      how many parsecs of time it would take

      Nice try. Everybody knows that time is measured in light years, DUH!

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