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3 Habitable-Zone Super-Earths Found Orbiting Nearby Star 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the see-how-the-orbit,-see-how-they-orbit dept.
astroengine writes "Gliese 667C is a well-studied star lying only 22 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius, but it appears to have been hiding a pretty significant secret. The star has at least six exoplanets in orbit, three of which orbit within the star's "habitable zone" — the region surrounding a star that's not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist on their surfaces. Astronomers already knew that Gliese 667C had three worlds in orbit, one in the star's habitable zone, but the finding of three more exoplanets, two of which are also in the habitable zone is a huge discovery. Finding one small planet in a star's habitable zone is exciting, but finding three is historic. 'The number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy is much greater if we can expect to find several of them around each low-mass star — instead of looking at ten stars to look for a single potentially habitable planet, we now know we can look at just one star and find several of them,' said Rory Barnes, of the University of Washington, co-author of the study, in an ESO press release Tuesday (June 25)."
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3 Habitable-Zone Super-Earths Found Orbiting Nearby Star

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  • by tragedy (27079) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @03:35PM (#44104143)

    150 years ago the thought of getting from N.Y to London in 8 hours was the stuff of fantasy. Today its an everyday thing.

    Yeah, but 11 years ago getting from NY to London in less than 4 hours was an everyday thing (if pricier than other flights). Now it's unheard of. The only planes in service that have the speed and range don't regularly make that kind of trip and they don't take passengers. Modern enthusiasm for advances in technology seems to be limited mostly to whatever the latest smartphone is. Also, the people clamouring for those more advanced smartphones also typically have no clue whatsoever about the actual tech specs of them and are typically just being led around by the nose by marketing. Some of us are very pessimistic about the future of real technological development, at least in the short term.

  • by Xaedalus (1192463) <Xaedalys@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @03:47PM (#44104265)
    There's plenty of data both pro and con about sending a probe to explore and the timeline necessary. Has anyone ever thought about seeing if perhaps another race has sent a probe at us? And if so, how would we spot it?
  • Re:"Nearby star" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grep_rocks (1182831) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @04:02PM (#44104489)
    I think in the context of the Fermi Paradox finding lots of habitable planets is _bad_ news because it invites the question "so where the hell is all the intelligent life on all these habitable planets" the aswers to that question indicate a term in the drake equation is close to zero, hopefully it isn't the term that indicates the length of time a technological civilization exists....
  • by Xerxes314 (585536) <clebsch_gordan@yahoo.com> on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @04:29PM (#44104863)

    I'm not sure what difference this makes to the actual habitability of the planets, but all of these are tidally locked. That is, the same part of the planet is always facing the star (and thus baked) while the same part faces empty space (and thus freezes). A thick atmosphere might transport heat and make things more uniform, but none of these are what one would naively think of as "habitable". In fact, all planets in the "habitable" zone of such small stars are going to be tidally locked. Wikipedia actually has a nice summary of the problem of tidal locking in small stars [wikipedia.org].

    On the other hand, they might have very interesting moons.

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @04:59PM (#44105265) Homepage

    We're finding enough potentially habitable exoplanets that it's worth sending messages to them. Some might have a civilization. It's time for SETI to start transmitting.

    This is quite possible. Arecebo could communicate with a similar installation across the galaxy.

  • by the gnat (153162) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @05:04PM (#44105325)

    Modern enthusiasm for advances in technology seems to be limited mostly to whatever the latest smartphone is. Also, the people clamouring for those more advanced smartphones also typically have no clue whatsoever about the actual tech specs of them and are typically just being led around by the nose by marketing.

    Or, alternately, modern enthusiasm for technology is directed towards products that can be profitably mass-produced and are within the financial means of the average middle-class consumer. The Concorde was both expensive and money-losing, and the side effects (sonic boom) were more than most people wanted to deal with. (Although I sometimes wish we could use the same logic to ban Bluetooth headsets.)

    Unfortunately there are lots of technologies like this, where the know-how and manufacturing capability exists, but the economics and other practical aspects make it unsustainable. I don't think it reflects negatively on modern consumers that they aren't willing to support huge, expensive projects like this, or the International Space Station, etc., simply because technology enthusiasts think they look cool. Having been on intercontinental flights in both directions in the last year, I would love if I could cut the flight times in half. But neither my budget nor my employer's budget would allow me to take the Concorde if it were still in flight, so I don't know why I should be excited about that idea, any more than I'm excited by the availability of fully-reclining seats.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @05:32PM (#44105705) Homepage

    Yeah, but 11 years ago getting from NY to London in less than 4 hours was an everyday thing (if pricier than other flights). Now it's unheard of.

    Yes but it was sort of like the pony express shutting down their rush service because the telegraph arrived, maybe that sucks if you wanted to send a package but for the 95% that wanted to send a letter the telegraph was faster and better. Not every aspect of every old service is going to be preserved by the new ones, there will always be some regressions in the overall picture. Even though we're making incremental improvements I doubt we'll see any revolutionary changes in things like jet propulsion, internal combustion, gas turbines and whatnot - it's just minor tweaks to squeeze more efficiency out of it.

    The overwhelming number of changes I expect is for things to get smaller, smarter and for more and more things to go electronically rather than physically and applying brute force. Maybe you get another 5 mph on the interstate but the main difference is an AI that drives itself. My dream of "real technological development" would be things like having nanobots to destroy bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, cure genetic diseases and prevent aging on the cell level. In the future maybe we all have personal assistants like only the rich have today, only they're robotic. It couldn't be done today because to have servants somebody would have to be the servants, but we could all have a robot the way we all have cell phones.

    I'm not going to bash the system we have today, I can go down to the grocery store and buy a finished meal, pop it in the microwave and put the dishes in the dishwasher but it certainly could be taken to the next level where I just tell a robot I'd like spaghetti bolognese today and it'd shop, cook like a professional chef, serve and clear the tables when I'm done. Having a washing machine and a dryer is also rather relaxed, but again being able to throw dirty clothes in the bin and have them sorted, washed, dried, ironed if applicable and put back in the closest by themselves would be even better. Roombas and electronic lawn mowers are just a shadow of what robot housekeepers and gardeners could be. In short, even if I don't see flying cars on the horizon I see plenty things that could make life in 2013 seem rather primitive compared to 100 years from now.

  • Re:"Nearby star" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by war4peace (1628283) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @07:32PM (#44107143)

    100 years of travel for 22 light years away.
    That's 50 years of acceleration and 50 years of deceleration to travel 22 light years.
    So you have to accelerate for 50 years and travel 11 light years in the process.

    What's the calculated acceleration?

    22 light years is 208,200,000,000,000 km.

    Average speed to get there in 100 years is 208,200,000,000,000 km divided by 3,153,600,000 seconds, that's 66019.8 km/s. You need to reach that speed in 25 years of acceleration. That's 0.08 m/square second. Easily achievable, provided you don't have to carry half of Earth's mass in fuel. I think even ionic drives can get that sort of acceleration.

    Ideally, considering an acceleration of 1g (constant, disregards time spend in orbit or maneuvering around, etc) you could reach 283,940 km/s in exactly 11 months (335 days).

    Now all we have to do is come up with a perfectly working Bussard reactor... (http://www.ibiblio.org/lunar/school/InterStellar/Explorer_Class/Bussard_Fusion_systems.HTML)

  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@ear ... t ['hli' in gap]> on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @09:20PM (#44108015)

    By all means use a better propulsion system. Ion jet rockets probably are the best currently buildable. But you will still need to limit your top velocity, or you will be damaged by interstellar dust particles. Grain of sand is probably the worst to deal with. Too small to see in time to dodge, and too large to shield against. Of course, if you were going faster even smaller particles would be more dangerous. My guess is that this factor would limit you to 0.1c, but that's a wild guess. I could easily be off by a factor of 10 in either direction.

    Perhaps it would help if the vehicle were preceeded by a balloon filled with ice (water). But that's rather hard to see through, and hard to manuver if you need to dodge something too large.

    And the more complex you make things, the more likely it is you'll experience a breakdown along the way.

    Still, one thing that we really need to do is send one of these things with an on-board telescope of moderate power. Have the ship spin slowly, and stream the pictures back to earth. You don't need a fast transmission rate as one picture/week at any given angle should suffice, and half or a quarter of that would be acceptable. But this would give us a LONG parallax line. (N.B.: I'm not talking about something with high resolution, or infrared capability, and any other exotic capability. I'm presuming that the pictures would be stitched together with software after being received. So the buffer would only need to hold one image at a time.)

    Now it's true that this wouldn't show much about the target system within our lifetimes, but it might show us a great deal about things off to the side. And it would test many of our estimates of distance (which, to be frank, rest on reasonable but not directly testable assumptions). That said, even this would only directly test distances about near bodies. It's not a long enough baseline to directly test Cephid variable distances, except a few. And I'm only expecting it to verify what is already known. But it would allow us to test our model of the local 3d starspace against direct imagery.

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