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Space Science

'Einstein's Planet' Becomes First Exoplanet Discovered Using New Method 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the crazy-hair-mandatory-on-einstein's-planet dept.
cylonlover writes "Due to their relative faintness compared to their parent stars, most known exoplanets have been discovered using indirect detection methods – that is, detecting the effects they have rather than observing them directly. There are numerous indirect methods that have proven useful in the detection of exoplanets and now yet another, which relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity (abstract), has joined the list with the discovery of an exoplanet known as Kepler-76b."
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'Einstein's Planet' Becomes First Exoplanet Discovered Using New Method

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  • How many of these planets are in the goldilocks zone? Sure we can find them; but which ones are livable for Carbon based lifeforms?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      We don't know. But it's still worth detecting them.

      Should we stop looking for planets until we have the capability to get satellite imagery of the cities on them?
      • I did not say we should stop looking; but it would be nice to find Earth 2. We will need it eventually.

        • by Takatata (2864109)
          So, we will need it. Very funny. What do you intend to do, when we find one? Buy a bus ticket?
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Depends on how long you are willing to travel, and the bust stops you have in the mean time. Eventually, your descendants will reach it. Or not. Either way it is worth trying... When time comes.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Send some tardigrades there together with anything else that might survive the trip?
            Spam enough DNA around to planets that can sustain life in the hope that something intelligent might evolve?
            Eventually one of the evolved beings might be both able to survive a space trip and intelligent enough to initiate the trip.

            It would be pretty cool if life in general could outlive this planet. At the moment all life that we know about will die when this planet falls into the sun.

            • by Takatata (2864109)

              It would be pretty cool if life in general could outlive this planet. At the moment all life that we know about will die when this planet falls into the sun.

              First we were alone. Other planets? No way. Then we discovered: Hey, other suns have also planets. First we were able to see only the biggest ones. Now we can detect smaller and smaller ones. Planets almost seem to be something very common. Life? I really would not worry, that Earth is the only planet with life.

            • by niado (1650369)

              It would be pretty cool if life in general could outlive this planet. At the moment all life that we know about will die when this planet falls into the sun.

              There are lots of pressing things that we need to work on solutions for now or in the near future. This is not one of them.

              • by hazydave (96747)

                Take the long term view. If mankind goes extinct, then absolutely nothing we every worried about in the short term matters one iota on that day after the last human dies. Right now, and as long as we're only on Earth, any number of catastrophies could kill us all in sort order, some we create, some that just happen. Either way, mankind and every thing it ever did ceases to matter at all.

                Or, we keep working to fix this ultimate problem. Taking the million year view, moving sustainably beyond earth is the mos

        • by niftydude (1745144) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @03:30AM (#43729501)

          I did not say we should stop looking; but it would be nice to find Earth 2. We will need it eventually.

          Find Earth 2? Pfft, I'd rather make Earth 2. Anyone want to give me some funding to get some terraforming going on?

          • by Takatata (2864109)
            Probably way more realistic, than finding one and getting to it.
          • by arfonrg (81735)

            Earth 2? PFFFT! Anyone wanna give me some funding so I can terraform my backyard with a pool?

          • by rossdee (243626)

            They already made Earth 2 back in the early 90's - where the native inhabitants could pop up right out of the ground, . Most of the humans wore VR headsets.
            It only lasted one season.

        • We will need it eventually.

          Someone might need it. I highly doubt we will need it.

    • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @03:28AM (#43729489) Homepage Journal

      There are some numbers in this newest comic: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1584 [phdcomics.com]

      • by zome (546331)
        phdcomics and xkcd...my two favorite web comics, drawn by highly educated guys who left cool jobs so they can doodling full time.
    • by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @03:46AM (#43729555)

      Billions and billions*.

      * assuming one per galaxy.

      • by Herve5 (879674)

        There are billions *per galaxy*

        Because actually detecting exoplanets is recent and fancy shouldn't prevent us to understand this. You may wish to consult the PHDcomics stance on this at http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1584 [phdcomics.com] , at least they understood it the right way: indeed it's the lack of planet around a star that's the exception.

        Since the idea is recent it'll take 10 years to mankind at large to accept is as normal, but come on, not on slashdot! ;-)

    • by Cenan (1892902) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @04:00AM (#43729615)

      A planet doesn't need to be in the Goldilocks zone to be habitable, it's just the safest bet we have for estimating habitability. It's dangerous to exclude planets that are too big, too far out or in general unlike Earth. Moons around gaseous giants might very well be just as habitable as Earth is, but for a different reason than being close to a star. All that is really needed is enough energy to keep water liquid, which could be had via volcanism or gravitational pressure from a larger neighbor.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Indeed, the potential for life-bearing worlds extends far beyond "planets like ours", but habitable (by humans) severely restricts the selection - too big and the gravity would make it difficult or impossible for us to survive. Ditto too hot, too cold, too much or little atmospheric pressure, etc. . And in fact a life bearing world (the only kind likely to have significant oxygen in it's atmosphere) might actually be a rather poor candidate for colonization - it'd be us with our tiny canned ecosystem vers

    • by tbird81 (946205) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @04:55AM (#43729807)

      From the article:
      "Einstein's planet," formally known as Kepler-76b, is a "hot Jupiter" that orbits its star every 1.5 days. Its diameter is about 25 percent larger than Jupiter and it weighs twice as much. It orbits a type F star located about 2,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

      The planet is tidally locked to its star, always showing the same face to it, just as the Moon is tidally locked to Earth. As a result, Kepler-76b broils at a temperature of about 2000 Kelvin.

    • Given that our current understanding is that the universe has no end, is infinite, then the number of any type of planet you could imagine would be infinite.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @08:20AM (#43730815) Homepage

        Given that our current understanding is that the universe has no end, is infinite, then the number of any type of planet you could imagine would be infinite.

        I'm not sure it's understood to be truly 'infinite', but 'so damned big as to be infinite for purposes of discussion'.

        And there was a time (not even all that long ago) when it was thought that planets around other stars would be very rare and uncommon.

        In university I hung out with a bunch of astrophysicists, and the idea of finding exoplanets was still something we weren't sure of, and it was assumed there was a relatively small number of stars which would have planets.

        It's only just over 20 years since we confirmed the first one, and in that time the rate at which we detect them keeps going up at a pretty staggering rate. To the point now that if you look at Drake's equation, it's hard not to conclude that, somewhere, some form of life has probably evolved elsewhere in the universe, and probably even intelligent life existed at some point.

        Admittedly, the distances and time spans are so vast as to make it highly unlikely we'd ever find them. But, to me at least, it just seems so improbable that we're the only life to have evolved anywhere in the entire universe.

        • I'm not sure it's understood to be truly 'infinite', but 'so damned big as to be infinite for purposes of discussion'.

          In terms of boundaries, it probably is... but maybe someday radio-telescopes will discover something from beyond the cosmic background radiation that will reveal that our universe is not what we thought it was. Maybe we will discover that our universe is just some kid's world-in-a-jar science project in a higher-order universe or something.

          In terms of mass, the Big Bang Theory does imply that the universe has finite mass, however unimaginable it may be at least with our current understanding of matter and t

          • I heat about that. There is this concept of "critical mass of the universe"

            if the universe was started by a "big bang", then at one point, all matter was infintesmally close, and started acceralting away from eachother, the universe as a whole still has its own gravity, and if the engergy was not enough to produce escape velocity from itself, it will eventually start falling into itself like a ball thrown in the air, and comming back down.
          • by hazydave (96747)

            Sure... really long term, we're doomed either way. If there's the critical mass for a Big Crunch (these days, it's a question of dark energy vs. dark mass, given that even today, galaxies are still accelerating from one another), everything crunches together, whatever that really means. If not, eventually, all stars die out, and it's the heat death scenario.

            But in practical terms, that's a "high class" problem. Any given species on earth is good for a few million years at best. We expect our big brains will

          • As far as "The Big Crunch", current observations make it seem exceedingly unlikely. Detailed observations were made many years ago to measure the rate at which gravity was slowing the expansion of the universe in an attempt to estimate whether the universe would expand forever, eventually collapse, or balance right at the cusp. What we discovered was that the rate of expansion is actually *increasing* due to an unknown force, and increases faster over longer distances - the as yet unexplained effect we na

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Is it? Having no edge is not synonymous with being infinite. I know Hawking subscribes to the theory that our universe is unbounded but finite - i.e. it's a four-dimensional structure that loops back on itself, somewhat like the surface of a sphere is a finite, unbounded 2-D structure, and I had the impression that it's not an unpopular theory among the experts in the field.

        Moreover, even if space itself is infinite, that doesn't imply that the amount of matter within it is likewise infinite. Our underst

    • Probably between 1000 and 100,000,000 civilizations in the galaxy.

    • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @07:58AM (#43730629)

      How many of these planets are in the goldilocks zone? Sure we can find them; but which ones are livable for Carbon based lifeforms?

      According to the catalog [upr.edu], 10 (out of 885) are confirmed so far. From the catalog, "Gliese 581d, Kepler-22b, Gliese 667Cc, Gliese 581g, Gliese 163c, HD 40307g, Tau Cetie, Kepler-62e, Kepler-62f, and Kepler-61b are the only known exoplanets that might be considered potentially habitable or object of interest for the search for life.

      There are a further 18 (out of 2716) unconfirmed Kepler candidates that (if they are not false positives) also may reside in their habitable zones. These should be confirmed (or rejected) in due course. Of course, "potentially habitable" does not mean you want to start considering a new vacation home. If Venus and Mars were reversed (i.e., Venus was in Mars's orbit, and Mars in Venus's), each would probably be nicely habitable. As they are, not so much, at least, not without a considerable amount of planetary engineering.

  • by Meneth (872868) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @03:41AM (#43729541)
    This new method is apparently known as the BEER effect. One wonders what Albert would have felt about that. :)
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @03:50AM (#43729567)

    Help! Help! Let me out!

    (Yeah, I know he was cremated, but his brain is in a jar.)

    • (Yeah, I know he was cremated, but his brain is in a jar.)

      Actually it's on slides

  • If that planet was so smart how come it didn't discover us first? Just saying...
  • Looks more and more like "crazy" concepts such as the Alcubierre drive [wikipedia.org] will, soon, actually be needed.
    • Looks more and more like "crazy" concepts such as the Alcubierre drive [wikipedia.org] will, soon, actually be needed.

      Didn't that require converting several universes worth of mass into energy to power it?

      • by peragrin (659227)

        sure but that is just a scaling problem. The original computers basically required their own generators to power them too.

        now your smart phone has more processing power than super computers built in the 1980's

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          There were never any theoretical limits on energy consumption for computers (okay, actually I think there are now, but our most efficient devices are still many orders of magnitude away)

      • by hajus (990255)

        It was thought it would require the mass of Jupiter, but that was changed due to a redesign. The new design requires as much energy as 70% of the US annual energy usage. High, but not astronomical anymore.

        • by hajus (990255)

          It does however, require the exotic matter known as negative energy in its usage.

          • by VanessaE (970834)

            That's Alcubierre's original theory, sure. The tests that warp field researchers are preparing for now, however, are expected to be doable with convential forms of energy (high voltages, as I understand). What a time to be alive!

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            Not to mention some sort of magical technology capable of bending space into improbable topologies.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        The initial design did, but IIRC the required energy was dependent on the external volume of the warp field, and further analysis revealed one of the interesting properties of the spatial geometry is that the internal and external volumes are independent of each other, so for example you could wrap the entire planet in a warp field that, from the outside, is subatomic in scale (assuming Plank-length spacetime granularity doesn't interfere). Also I think someone came out with a vastly more efficient variant

  • This is the first time optical observations have shown evidence of alien jet stream winds at work.

    Jupiter is no longer consider "alien"? I take this as evidence that people have already secretly colonized Jupiter.

  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @07:42AM (#43730509)

    This planet was discovered by Lorentz boosting, the theory of which predates Einstein. Meanwhile, 20 exoplanets [exoplanet.eu] have been discovered to date using gravitational lensing [scholarpedia.org], an application of General Relativity (a theory created by Einstein ) that was itself first predicted by Einstein. Somehow, the press release (and thus all the subsequent press) failed to mention these "Einstein planets."

    • What I don't quite understand is how they first explain how difficult it is to find these planets, relying on tiny changes in the star's luminosity because the planets themselves are too dim to observe directly, and then go on to describe this planet in great detail: diameter, the fact that it's tidally locked, temperature at different locations, jet stream winds,... On a planet 2000 light years away? How did they get this "stong evidence"? Did they tune in to a local alien weather station?

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        What I don't quite understand is how they first explain how difficult it is to find these planets, relying on tiny changes in the star's luminosity because the planets themselves are too dim to observe directly, and then go on to describe this planet in great detail: diameter, the fact that it's tidally locked, temperature at different locations, jet stream winds,... On a planet 2000 light years away? How did they get this "stong evidence"? Did they tune in to a local alien weather station?

        They're not mutua

        • And you can see storms from 2000 light years away?

          • by mbone (558574)

            And you can see storms from 2000 light years away?

            Lorentz boosting (BEER) was used to detect the planet - think of this as a way of observing a Doppler shift from the light curve, without doing spectra (which Kepler cannot do). It was confirmed by getting time on big telescopes and getting actual spectra. The Doppler shifts plus the BEER data gave a good orbit (subject to the usual sin inclination ambiguity). Then this orbit was used to model and remove the Lorentz boosting, and the Kepler data was used to make a light curve. As it turns out from manual in

  • The original paper, "BEER analysis of Kepler and CoRoT light curves: I. Discovery of Kepler-76b: A hot Jupiter with evidence for superrotation," is here [arxiv.org].

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