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Kepler-62 Has 2 Good Candidate Planets In the Search for Life 79

Posted by timothy
from the damn-dirty-wet-apes dept.
astroengine writes "About 1,200 light-years from Earth, five planets are circling around sun-like star Kepler-62, two of which are fortuitously positioned for water, if any exists, to remain liquid on their surfaces — a condition believed to be necessary for life. The discovery, made by scientists using NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, is the strongest evidence yet for more than one Earth-sized planet existing in a star's so-called 'habitable' zone. 'We're particularly delighted to find that there are two planets in the habitable zone,' lead Kepler scientist William Borucki, with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. 'It sort of doubles our chances of finding that Earth we'd all like to find. When you think about Earth and Mars, if Mars had been a bit larger, if Jupiter hadn't been so close, we'd again have two planets in the habitable zone and maybe we'd have a place to go,' he said." There's also a third planet believed to be a good candidate for hosting water.
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Kepler-62 Has 2 Good Candidate Planets In the Search for Life

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    With current technology that puts these planets a mere half million years away.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cool! Kepler finds planets by observing the slight dimming of a star when a planet transits in front of it. Which means that it only finds planets that are lined up right to see this from our point of view. Only a small fraction of planets will be lined up this way. So there are good odds that there are terrestrial planets much closer to us. It'd be nice if something like the Terrestrial Planet Finder could be built. That would find planets at any orbital inclination. Then we could build something bi

  • Cant find any calculations on the power level or bandwidth of a detectable signal - Seti Institute dont have anything. Any takers on an estimate?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by guruevi (827432)

      As I said above, the current transmissions we may be receiving puts them somewhere in the beginning of the middle ages. We have only been transmitting stuff out that may be strong enough to be detected for ~100 years.

      The Pioneer's have a transmitter of about 8W and are 0.001 lightyears away and one of them is dead, the other is barely discernible. If we take a very generous estimate and say maybe 5kW can be detected at 1ly - you will need several TW to be detectable that far. Not necessarily impossible but

    • by zzyzyx (1382375) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @05:11PM (#43487017)

      Interesting question. I'll try: we're just barely able to detect the signal from Voyager 1, which is currently about 18.4 billion km, or 0.0019 light-year away. I couldn't find the exact emission power from the antenna, but the Wikipedia page mentions that the electric generator has around 250W of power. Let's say 200W of that go in the antenna. Translating this to 1200 ly, using the 1/r^2 rule, gives about 76 TW.

      That's a lot, about 5 times the total average energy consumption of the World, but not out of the realm of possibilities. So if there was an advanced civilization with a lot of energy and a very big, very directive antenna that desperately wanted to talk to us, we might just be able to pick it up.

    • Just take the flux limit of the telescope you are using. Multiply by 4*pi*distance^2 (the area of emitting sphere), and the duration of observation, and you have the power you need to put in at the emitter (assuming an uncollimated emitter, without any atmospheric loss -- which is acceptable in radio).

      Lets assume 15 mJy for the Allen Telescope Array used by SETI, and 1 hour of observation. That gives you 70 MW [wolframalpha.com] to emit. The Arecibo Message [wikipedia.org] sent in 1974 was 1 MW, others are at the 150 kW level.

      • If the civilization is older than ours it may have detected our planet long ago and have a narrow beam width signal directed at us, a laser for example. This might affect the calculation about input power somewhat. Perhaps we should be thinking more about what power input we would need in a laser directed at them to be detected in 1200 years time using a laser? After all at 1200 light years distance they are never going to make it here using public transport to sell us fizzy drinks.

    • It's 100 MYW:

      Let's make a couple of quick assumptions:
      1. Lossless, perfect vacuum.
      2. Height difference = 0 and line of sight.
      3. Minimum detectable = 1mW.
      4. Omni-directional antenna, since they aren't aiming at us.
      5. Let's also simplify by assuming there are no equipment or connector losses.
      6. We'll also go with a 20MHz transmission.

      P(rx) = P(tx) - L(fs)

      L(fs) = 32.45 + 20 x log(20MHz ) + 20 x log (1.1 × 10^16 km)
      380dB loss.

      Heh, that converts to 100 x 10^30 W. It might get a little warm near the transmi

      • by Al Al Cool J (234559) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @07:33PM (#43488081)

        Or, they could use a star itself and modulate the light coming from it, like stellar semaphore.

        One method that has been proposed http://www.iterate.com.au/SETI/SETI.htm [iterate.com.au] uses a swarm of self-replicating robots. Given raw materials to work with it could in time create a large enough structure or cloud in front of the star so as to be able to send a signal to a large percentage of the heavens. This would be detectable over much greater distances than 1200 ly.

      • A targeted transmission search would almost certainly use directed, non-diffracting beams (they exist - google it). Meaning the necessary power would be dramatically dropped, because they would only transmit to a small number of star systems that have a chance of hosting life.

        However, it's fairly likely that an advanced civilization would use neutrinos, or some other weakly interacting matter, for interstellar communications, rather than simple electromagnetic waves. Non-the-less, life is out there - like i

  • The various methods of detecting planets are improving but....

    How long is it, if ever, before we are going to have a telescope that can definitively tell us that a planet has an atmosphere containing oxygen and large amounts of water?

    • The plans are on the drawing board right now, if you are young enough and the economy doesn't totally crap out the findings from Kepler should see them built in your very own lifetime..

    • At the Long Beach AAS meeting this year a group successfully teased an atmospheric spectrum from a "reverse transit", that is when the planet goes BEHIND the star. This method assumes most of the time you observe the planets and stars combined spectrum, except during reverse transit.
  • ..are fortuitously positioned for water, if any exists, to remain liquid on their surfaces — a condition believed to be necessary for life..

    I find it frustrating that with so many capable biologists on our planet, we have an obsessive belief in the theory that life cannot evolve or exit on planets where liquid water is available. I think it's a despicable thought process that's in desperate need of modification.

    • by zzyzyx (1382375)

      Life based on liquid water is the only one that we know of. Maybe other forms of life are possible, but we don't know what they are, so we can't search for them.

    • Science is testing ideas with experiment and observation. Until we OBSERVE life that can evolve or exist without water, then speculation is non-scientific.
    • by the gnat (153162)

      I think it's a despicable thought process that's in desperate need of modification.

      I think it's ridiculous that every time the subject of extraterrestrial life comes up, a dozen clueless people post the same objection as if it's some stunningly original insight that biologists have simply missed due to lack of imagination.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      • 1. You cannot make long chain molecules with anything other than C, H and O. Go ahead, try to substitute some other atoms.
      • 2. These long chain molecules don't do anything interesting at all if not given liquid H20
      • 3. H2O has other unique properties, such as being strongly bipolar and also being less dense when solid than liquid which means it mixes like crazy instead of forming solid crud at the bottom like other compounds.
      • 4. Earth has all kinds of crazy compounds lying around. Not one of them has mana
  • by elabs (2539572) on Thursday April 18, 2013 @06:07PM (#43487513)
    Saves on IT costs.

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.

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