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Two Earth-Like Exoplanets Don't Actually Exist 102

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the there-go-my-retirement-plans dept.
Two suspected exoplanets, Gliese 581g and 581d, have been shown to not exist, and are instead misinterpretations of data from starspot activity. From the article: "Gliese 581g doesn't exist," said lead author Paul Robertson of Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania. Neither, he said, does another planet in the same solar system, known as Gliese 581d, announced in 2009—less clearly hospitable to life, but still once seen by some astronomers as a possible place to find aliens. ... What's happening, they say, is that magnetic disturbances on Gliese 581's surface — starspots — are altering the star's spectrum in such a way that it mimics the motion induced by a planet. The star itself rotates once every 130 days, carrying the starspots with it; the disputed planets appeared to have periods of almost exactly one half and one fourth of the 130-day period. When the scientists corrected for the starspot signal, both planets disappeared.
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Two Earth-Like Exoplanets Don't Actually Exist

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  • Re:Yeahhh (Score:4, Informative)

    by kenwd0elq (985465) <> on Saturday July 05, 2014 @09:06PM (#47390999)

    Ditto here. The "New planet may support life!!!! meme is so COMPLETELY overblown based on a telescope that detects occultations, and doesn't generate any images. The "artist's renderings" were way off in fantasyland, entirely unsupported by the data.

  • by dltaylor (7510) on Saturday July 05, 2014 @09:35PM (#47391067)

    This is why most discoveries are double-checked by someone else.

    Whether it is table-top cold fusion, stem cells, planets, or the Higgs boson, you publish "we found X by doing Y". Someone else tries and does or doesn't succeed. If they do, it adds evidence to your discovery. If they don't, they go back through your "Y" and see where it doesn't add up for them. In this case, it was found that "Y" didn't take into account "Z" (rather like the "faster than light" neutrinos a few years back where the timing signal was slowed by a weak electical coupling).

    Additionally, there's a lot of data coming from the space-based and, still, Earth-based, telescopes. A data item can show up after you've started your analysis that you didn't know at the time, for example, the stellar rotation period for which to account might not have been known.

    On the plus side, this will require all of the to-be-published research to check for this factor, reducing that type of erroneous reporting.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen