Forgot your password?

First Other Solar System discovered 188

Posted by sengan
from the Upsilon-Andromedae dept.
The first solar system other than our own has been discovered only 44 light years away. Its planets are Jupiter-sized and its discovery suggests that solar systems such as our own may be commonplace in the Universe... potentially providing a fertile ground for extra-terrestial life. The large size of the system's planets also invalidates all current planet-formation theories.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

First Other Solar System discovered

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think its sortof foolish for people to believe that our planet could be the only one suitable for life. Finding life elsewhere would be "neat" I guess, but it would be no real suprise to me. Finding life that we could communicate with (we can barely do that on earth today) would be extremely difficult. We are the first "intelligent" life on earth (that we know of). The closest 5 billion galaxies could have just plants and insect type creatures. Could even find creatures big as the earth itself (wouldn't that be scary). I think it would be easier to find ways to communicate with life on earth that trying to find life on other planets we can communicate with.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    in 1492 the europeans found what was to them
    a 'new world', full of 'alien beings'.

    then they went over and slaughtered them
    all and used the land for european agriculture.

    if you want to meet aliens, go knock on your
    neighbors door who you havent talked to in 15 years
    and say hello.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And orbiting the biggest hot gas bag, Gates, is a small, extremely dense moon named Ballmer. This moon has an extremely erratic orbital motion. It's spin axis constants flips from side to side depending on it's interactions with Gates, McNelly, and Ellison. Recent unexplained motions by the moon have led scientist to strongly believe that a fourth major planet (tentatively named Linus) must also exist.

    What is interesting is that the moon is believed to have an atmosphere compose of hydrogen sulfide, an extemely foul smelling gas. However, despite the presence of an atmosphere, no signs of intelligent life has ever been detect on Balmer.

    Finally, while the planet Gates exerts a high level of influence on the moon, the moon has no influence on the planet. How the moon got to it's present position totally mystifies scientists.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, first of all Geoff Marcy has been finding planets around other stars for awhile. Another poster was correct in stating that Jupiter sized extrasolar planets are nothing new these days. And that is correct. What is new about these results is that Marcy is claiming to have found an entire *system* of 3 jupiter-sized planets around another star. This is, in fact news.

    Another poster was skeptical of these findings saying that so many of them can be attributed to things like "camera jitter" and such. Well, as I just said this is not the first planet that Marcy has found around other stars. He's been doing these experiments and getting good results for several years now. His experiments have been repeated and so far nobody has found any problems with them. I've come to accept that at the worst some of Marcy's extrasolar planet claims may wind up being disputed, but some of them are almost certainly planets. We're past the "camera jitter" phase in trying to come up with problems in the observations that Marcy is making.

    Now, as for "invalidating all current theories of planetary formation" -- this isn't necessarily true. If Marcy is right this probably will bury all the theories which were in existence prior to his finding extrasolar planets. However, we've known of the existence of extrasolar jupiter-sized planets tightly orbiting other stars for a few years now and the shake-up in the theoretical community has already occured. There are now models out there which can account for this kind of star formation. One model that I know of suggests that many jupiter-sized gas giants are formed in the early solar system. As the solar system evolved there is a transfer of angular momentum between the orbits of these stars and the gas and dust and crap still remaining in the protoplanetary ring. The result of this angular momentum transfer is that the gas giant closest to the star will spiral into that star, then the next gas giant in line spirals into the star, and so on, until the gas and crap in the solar system is blown out of the system by the star and this process stops. When the process stops the solar system is left "frozen" in whatever configuration it was in. If a gas giant had nearly wound up plunging into the sun, then you'd see a gas giant in a very tight orbit. If, on the other hand you'd just lost a gas giant into the sun then the next one in line will have only started to spiral in and you'll see something similar to what our solar system looks like. It also makes the current results of this system of 3 gas giants, with one of them tightly orbiting, not too surprising and it might even be commonplace.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a reference, but I saw a seminar on this theory and found it intriguing, and it would explain the existence of solar systems like this one and like ours. I don't think that this theory is necessarily correct, but just to point out that the damage to theories of planetary formation have already been done and that people are working on other theories which can explain what Marcy has been observing. seems to be a pretty good page of links. The first link on this page will take you to Marcy's extrasolar planet page at SFSU which is pretty much the authoritative source.

  • It's COMPLETELY foolish! Have we found the "edge" of the universe yet? ... And what is the "edge" of the universe? At what point does the universe end? I don't understand how people can think in such 3 dimensional terms.
    ----------------- ------------ ---- --- - - - -
  • Not sure.. I've always though of "a sun" as any star with planetary bodies in orbit of it. This comes from the many science fiction novels and television series which depict planets with many "suns".

    The same is true for "moons". There is "the moon" and then there is "a moon". Saturn has several moons, but "the moon" circles earth.

  • I know I have read about the discovery of Jupiter size planets as long ago as 1997. More interestingly later findings seemed to suggest that while the larger planets might be discernible there was the possibility that smaller earth size planets might also be present.

  • I read about a technique call interfereometry in some scientific magazines that may allow for finding earth size planets surrounding distant stars. The technique would use arrays of smaller mirrors or detectors to simulate a larger single unit. Also, a smaller subset of the array could be used to go out-of-phase to cancel out the radiation of the parent star and make the remaining objects easier to analyse.

    They'd use spectroscopy and doppler-shift to gain additional information on composition and motion.

    Anyone know what techniques they used for the discovery? A URL to a paper?
  • If you watch the Mos Eisly cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, you see a person wearing what looks like an Apollo astronaut suit, complete with US flag :)

    Who am I?
    Why am here?
    Where is the chocolate?
  • Too bad it's "only" 44 light years away. :)
  • They use Exchange. That's why they haven't made contact yet! ;>
  • The further back we look, the more we look back in time... That's what I always kind of liked about the whole thing. :)
  • by Lars Clausen (1208) on Thursday April 15, 1999 @02:46PM (#1931389)
    For those of you who (like me) can hardly find the Polar Star, here's a nice constellation-browsing site: [].

  • 2) first extra solar multi planet system?

    I think you're wrong on this one. IIRC, the discovery of multiple planets around a neutron star was retracted. They made a mistake in their analysis and failed to properly take into account the motion of the Earth....

    In fact, the tip off in the neutron star case was that one of the "orbits" they discovered was remarkably similar to the size of the Earth's orbit. After making the proper corrections, the evidence for the planets disappeared.

  • Marcy et al have detected all their planets spectroscopically. That is, they look for subtle changes in the doppler shift of the central star in the system. So far, none of the planets detected have been observed in any images (that I know of).

    As for interferometry, this technique has been used by radio telescopes for decades, but doing this kind of thing with optical telescopes is still in the experimental stages. But basically your information is correct.

  • There should be some interesting names from mythology for these planets. One is incredibly close to the star - I'm not an astronomer, but how is it that it is not ripped to shreds? How about Icarus? Or is that not impressive enough a mythological figure for a planet?

    The one 4 times the size of jupiter sounds interesting. I wonder if it radiates more heat then it receives.

    So, do extrasolar planets get names, or are they going to be Ups Andromeda I, II, and III?
  • There are 9 planets in our own system. Only one has life. Now we've only conclusively found 3 planets in this new solar system...I'm amused that the scientists are shrieking, "eureka! We are not alone!". Just because there is a giant rock somewhere orbiting an energy source doesn't mean that life has a decent chance of existing there. Also, isn't there a reason the largest planets are gaseous? (I really don't know the answer). Because if these planets are truly gaseous, how will life exist there? I s'pose they could hover in the clouds, like in Empire Strikes Back...

  • by InThane (2300)
    I say we honor the truly great of our community:

    Linus Torvalds
    Commander Taco (Man, I would love a planet named that...)
    and Meept.
  • I think its interesting that they kept saying that three "jupiter-sized" planets were around the star, when in fact its three jupiter-massed planets. Without knowing what they're made of (which they can't do yet -- can't get spectral readings from stuff that close to the star AFAIK), they can't really say what *size* they are.

    As gas giants seem to be of the same general origin as stars, but without the mass or energy to sustain or start a fusion process, I'd think it'd be a lot more interesting if these jupiter *massed* planets were (because of their proximity to the star) actually much smaller, but more massive solid planets, or at least more substantially solid planets.

    Seems that would tell us something that we don't know -- how common rocky planetary formation happens.
  • If they were balls of gas, wouldn't the heat and proximity of the sun cause the gas to escape the atmosphere? I remember something about hydrogen escaping our atmosphere into space when it gets charged by the sun's energy.

    Maybe these planets are much like Mercury. Who knows, the cooler side may be able to support life. Imagine those hideous Doom characters duking it out on such a radioactive mining planet.
  • So why is everything so quiet? This discovery adds to the evidence that planet formation is a lot easier than we thought. Which in turn gives credibility to scientist's best guess at the "average spacing" between advanced life forms: 200 light-years.

    But paradoxically this is bad news. Think about it. If we had starships that traveled at a tenth of the speed of light, we would go out and find more good planets eventually. Then that colony does the same thing. So you get this expanding sphere of settlement. And if *we* can do it, it's sure possible the aliens can too. See the problem yet?

    David Brin wrote about this and even mentions an even easier scenario. Just make robot spaceships that can go out and find materials and reproduce at a much faster rate. If there is just *one* such original probe, then within three million years there would be one at *every* star in the Galaxy.

    So why so quiet?

  • The planets and all the stuff on/in them were created on days Bleem through Florp (inclusive). Then, on Xyzzy, nothing happened.
  • Ten gallon hats haven't got anything to do with any sort of liquid measurement. In fact a typical ten gallon hat probably wouldn't hold more than a single gallon.

    The name derives, IIRC, from the spanish galon, which was a braid that was used for decoration on the hat.

    Now the five gallon gloves and seven liter boots are a different story....
  • Hmmm... all Gas Giants eh? Anyone else here read Varley's Steel Beach? Yikes!
  •, almost anything is better than the indiscriminate use of the word "galaxy" in SF (Prize example: Goddard's Alphaville, where Lemmy Caution tells someone that the "other galaxies" are reporting civil disturbances also. Must be some communicator he has there...)

    As for "Terran", the wimps will probably change the name of our planet to the more ecological "Gaia", and we will be "Gaians", a name that doesn't exactly trip off the toungue. There's a transvestite warlock who uses that term 'round these parts...Not good to look at, but a militant feminist...
  • So many of these things have come and been disproved as just camera vibrations or whatever. I'm waiting for the dust to settle and some reliable facts to come out before I worry about it.
  • by J05H (5625) on Thursday April 15, 1999 @03:00PM (#1931403) Homepage
    There are a number of other planetary systems
    that are likely, and one that has been known
    but not exactly.

    The known system is 55 Cancri, it has two large

    The other "likelies" are Lalande 21185 and a bunch
    of pulsars. Lal 21185 has at least two likely
    companions that are detectable, but they are long
    period orbits (est. 5.8 and 30 year orbits) so
    they will take longer to confirm.

    The only reason this is getting news is that both
    the SFSU and AFOE teams concur on the system. I'm
    not dissing on either team, they have both done
    insanely cool work that is shattering and
    rebuilding our understanding of planetary
    sciences. The SFSU team, headed by Marcy and
    Butler, have discovered or confirmed the majority
    of the extrasolar planets that are known, and
    continue to release new results every couple of

    For a great resource, check out the Extrasolar
    Planets Encyclopedia at: cycl.html []
  • I seem to recall that more than one system has been discovered with more than one planet. I think it was a neutron star.
  • Okay. I must have missed the retraction.
  • The reason why this is likely to change a lot of planetary formation theories is due to probabilities. You are absolutely correct that the galaxy is a very big place. And with a couple hundred million stars, if a particular type of system has only a tiny chance of being formed, it probably exists in the galaxy somewhere. That _somewhere_ is the key.

    This system is only 44 light-years away. If planetary systems are rare, the chances of there being two such systems (ours and the newly discovered one) within only 44 light-years of one another would be -- pun intended -- astronomical.

    Because we found another such system so close to us after looking for only a short amount of time (we have just recently developed the technologies necessary to look for such systems), means that such systems must be very common.

    And that is not what conventional theories have been predicting.
  • Uhh.. say what?!? Sol is the name of the sun. I can't speak to Latin but it's the Spanish word for Sun and I'd bet it's also the Latin name. Latin is a language that's a lot older than the term 'solar system'.
  • Because "world domination" sounds a bit like understatement in this aspect.

  • I once tried to comprehend astronomical distances, but it only made my head hurt. However, 44 light years is not so bad. Let's see, Hitler's Olympic game speech must be on the way back by now; it should arrive in about 25 years.

    Incidently, reported today that astronomers using the Hubble telescope have identified something that is 13 billion light years away. Try to comprehend that distance! (without the use of any mind altering substance, of course). Furthermore, suppose our universe was just an atom in the fingernail of some alien beast...:)
  • B ut the Sennsitivity is still lacking to see Jupiter.

    I'm glad to find something closer to our solar system - all thos gas giants on 3 day orbits were starting to make the chances of life elsewhere look less and less likely.
  • er, I could have sworn I've heard the exact same thing in a Star Trek movie... I agree wholehartedly about the religious dogma thing, it's brainwashing, plain and simple.
  • Whatever this system is, it's not the first.
    A good overview of extrasolar planets may
    be found at o.html [].
  • I wonder which day GOD created these worlds?
    And did He build a firmament above them as well?
    I eagerly anticipate the tripe I'll hear about
    this in the local xtian media.
  • How is this discovery "further proof" of your nutty fairy tales?
  • We're hoping for an ADVANCED civilization. Let's hope in the right direction, shall we? :P

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Whether it's genuinely foolish to believe that ours could be the only planet with life on it is, I believe, more a function of the assumptions one has already made than anything else.

    If you assume that life on the earth is a result of chance and evolution, then if it could happen once, it doesn't seem so absurd to think it could happen elsewhere.

    On the other hand, if you believe that the earth was created by God, and if you believe that man was created in God's image, then there is really no reason whatsoever to assume that he created other "intelligent" (now there's a vague term) life.

    So the real question is not whether there is "intelligent" life on other planets; rather, the question is how those other planets (and this one) were made. The question is how man came to exist.

    Personally, I prefer not to make the wild and contradictory leaps of faith required to believe that I'm a product of evolution.

  • now taking earth as the basis for the whole universe, why wouldn't God pack life every where else also

    First, why should we take the earth as the basis for the whole universe? We have 8 (or 7, if you don't count Pluto...whatever) other planets right in our system that don't have life. On that basis (which I'd say is pretty slender) we could make a better argument that this is the ONLY place with life.

    Secondly, no one (well, not me anyway) is suggesting that there positively isn't life of any sort anywhere else in the created universe. God certainly could do this; the question is whether he has done so. We are unlikely to find out in the next couple hundred years.

    if he gave us dinosaur bones to dig up and ogle at, why not some intelagent [sic] life to play with also

    As I said, "intelligence" is a vague term. Dogs are intelligent, and we play with them. I think that satisfies your question. But I think you're really asking whether God created beings that are like man somewhere else in the universe. Of course, he could do such a thing. But for various theological reasons I doubt you want to hear (correct me if I'm wrong), I seriously doubt that he did so. And it's not our place to question why he did or didn't do something.

    anyway, i don't want to be an only child

    As with any siblings you do/don't have, that's really up to your parents. So too with God. Our liking/not liking the idea of being unique in the universe really has absolutely no bearing on the question of whether we're unique in the universe.

    I know of no reason to think that we're not.

  • Did you even bother to read my first post with this subject? It sure doesn't look like it.

    In it I said that whether one believes it to be "likely" that there is life elsewhere in this universe is more a function of what they believe about the origin of the universe than it is a function of anything else. This is an observation, not a declaration of dogma. Even if it was, it appears to have been more important to you to heap abuse on me than to even attempt to deal with anything whatsoever that I said. That being the case, don't be surprised if I get bored with you really quick. I'm more than willing to debate the matter, but it doesn't appear to me that you care to do so when you spend your time attacking me rather than anything I said.

    You bible-bashers make me laugh!

    Well, I'm glad we're good for something.

    I think that you should take your own advice before claiming that anyone else is making "Fundamental Assumptions", after all, religion is the number one Fundamental Assumption of all time!

    If you had read my original post you would have seen that I do in fact apply this to my own thinking. The more critical point is that evolutionists deny (and dishonestly at that) that they have made comparable fundamental assumptions. Evolution is no less a position held by faith than is belief in the resurrection of Christ.

    You have no proof that any god exists

    On the contrary: the proof is all around me. It is you who have no proof that he doesn't exist. Yes, I know that it's impossible to prove the negative. Nevertheless, evolutionists routinely make categorical denials of the existence of God. It's not that they can prove it; they don't even care to try. They just declare (without proof) that there is no God. So who's more dishonest?

    use your brain and you will see that the only logical deduction is that given the astronomical number of stars and systems that exist in the universe, of which we have discovered but a few, surely there must be life on some of them, and of these surely some of the life forms must have evolved sufficiently (they have after all had as much or more time than us) to form some semblance of a social structure, definitely meeting the criteria for sentience.

    Thank you for demonstrating my original point: one's beliefs about life on other planets are colored more by their beliefs about origins than anything else. You assume that life evolved here. Therefore you see no reason that it couldn't happen elsewhere (that in itself is a mighty big assumption, but we'll let it go). On the other hand, I believe that God created us, and that we hold a unique position in creation. Therefore I have no problem believing that there is no other sentient life (like unto human beings) in the universe (personally I doubt that there's any life of any sort elsewhere in the universe, but that's another question).

    You fanatics are so ignorant

    Thank you. I love you too. I'm so very grateful that you as an evolutionist have risen above petty attacks on others -- oops. My mistake. You haven't.

    Keep the religion off /. - lets just stick to the facts eh?

    Impossible. First, you and your fellow evolutionist cronies are constantly bashing Christians (see almost anything Jon Katz has ever submitted). Second and more importantly, it cannot be done because people are inherently religious. Yes, you too are religious, my friend. Your god may not be supernatural, but rest assured you have one -- perhaps yourself. The fact that people are religious means that it is utterly impossible to keep religion off Slashdot. Whatever your feelings are about the matter, though, it's evident that a large number of evolutionist zealots on Slashdot love to take gratuitous potshots at Christians, and so there's simply no way to avoid it.

    And this bit about "facts" -- hmmmm....You don't really think that there's anything like "facts", which hold their status apart from any human interpretation, do you? How quaint!

  • How many lines of code a year do they produce?

  • One of the results from all these searches that I would think would be most interesting is the number of stars that apparently _do not_ have planets (within the limits of resolution, of course) relative to the number that do. I've never seen that talked about in any of the popular press reports or even the general articles in Nature or Science. Perhaps the astronomy literature deals with the question.

    By now, with so many of these systems known, shouldn't we be able to start taking stabs at the statistics of solar system formation, at least for Jupiter-sized planets and up?

    Anyone know?
  • Funnily enough, in one of my favourite SF series, the term "Terran" was used in a mirror universe where we've all been turned into a slave race. It was spat out even more harshly than "hu-mon".

    But I do like the "What makes you think you can have an empire" comment below.. :)


    Win a Rio [] (or join the SETI Club via same link)
  • "Jupiter-sized" planets at about the equivalent orbits of Venus, Earth, and Mars does not make a similar solar system. It might make a planetary system.

    The theory for the beginning of our solar system uses the assumption that the more dense materials coagulated into the inner "rocky" planets, where as the less dense gases coagulated into the outer gas giants. This new planetary system seams to put this theory on its head.

    And, life as we know it would not exist in such a planetary systm, since no Earth sized planet could exist at the proper orbit with these large planets forcing their weight on their neighbors.

    So to say this new planetary system is like our own, is not a fair statement. IMHO.
    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • It would force us to re-evaluate our place in the grand scheme of things, and it would hopefully unite us in ways that would allow us to put some of our more petty differences aside. The promotion of global peace and brotherhood would IMHO be the greatest impact that a discovery such as this would bring about. Since we'd know once and for all how insignificant we are on a universal scale, there would be more propensity for us to work with each other, rather than against.

    I don't think this is the case. The reason that the world does not have "peace and brotherhood" is not that people are not being nice to each other. There are serious political, economic, philosophical, scientific, and moral issues that divide us, and the existence of life elsewhere will do nothing to solve them. We will still have power-hungry dicatators, overreaching governments, impoliteness, and all our other problems.

    The main impact of discovering non-sentient life would be biological. It would allow biologists to do true comparative biology, and discover whih features of life are essaential and which are merely accidents of Earth's conditions.

    Now discovery of and communication with sentient life would be literally the most important event in human history. Just the scientific and cultural exchanges that would take place would be incredible. But there is this little thing called the speed of light, and until someone proves Einstien wrong, none of will actually see non-terran life. Even these three planets are too far away for us to ever go there.
  • Hey, can I play this game? :-)

    You have an urn and an infinite set of marbles labeled 1,2,3...infinity.

    At 11pm you put marbles 1-10 in the urn and take out marble number 1.

    At 11:30pm you put marbles 11-20 in the urn and take out marble number 2.

    At 11:45pm you put marbles 21-30 in the urn and take out marble number 3.

    And so on.

    At midnight how many marbles are in the urn?
  • This is pretty exciting though, I heard on E-Town that they are building a really wide telescope that uses lot's of little telescope and some computer magic to make them act like a super sized telescope and they are going to launch it into space like Voyager. By the time it get's to Mars they are expecting it to show visual light pictures of planets around other stars.

    First of all, IIRC there were about four plans on the drawing board for more advanced, space-based telescopes. Many of these would use optical interferometry to get better resolution, much as is presently done with arrays of radio telescopes. This does *not* allow you to detect fainter objects - it _does_ let you see details more clearly in objects that you _can_ see, though. The idea is that we'd be able to distinguish the image of a planet from the image of the star it orbits using telescopes like these. IIRC a proof-of-concept system was being set up on Earth by linking two conventional telescopes in adjacent observatories.

    The telescopes won't go out to Mars. IIRC, they were just going a reasonable distance away from _Earth_, so that the glow of sunlight reflected off of us wouldn't interfere with their measurements as much. I don't remember exactly where they were going to be placed.

    I agree that the results produced should be quite interesting.

  • Are these actually gas giants?
    Are they balls of dirt?

    The inner one is almost certainly rock, as gas would have boiled away long ago (a planet orbiting that close to our sun would receive 350 times as much light per unit area as Earth).

    OTOH, maybe a Jupiter-like planet's gravity well would be deep enough to keep it in.

    I have questions about the equipment they are using and such, but the link dosn't answer much.

    At least some of the planet-detecting experiments that produced results checked the doppler shift of stars' spectra, looking for periodic oscillations in how quickly it was moving towards/away from us. A regular oscillation means that it is being tugged back and forth by a planet orbiting it. This technique only works well for relatively large planets orbiting relatively close, which is why Jupiter-sized planets and larger are the kinds that are being detected.

    I vaguely recall reading about another technique that actually looked for wobble in the star's position directly, but I could be mistaken about that.

  • This is usually up-to-date (within a week). Try [].

    It contains more useful information than most of the other extra-solar planet pages I've seen.
  • I'm not sure that it would be a good thing.

    Star Trek, as an example of popular culture, paints a pretty picture of the future. The reality of Earth history is that primitive cultures rarely survive contact with advanced cultures.

    The discovery of ET life would probably result in the creation of a large number of whacko cults and disrupt traditional religions.

  • Oh great. And I was quite happy with the astrophysics society not having to be politcally correct.

    If humans were to ever set up a colony in another "planatary system" and used solar panels, whould we have to change the name to stellar panels instead? Or maybe Proximus Centari panels?

    Solar system sounds good to me.
  • to die, knowing without the shadow of a doubt, that we are not alone.
  • cje is correct. "Sol" is the name of the star we call our sun. "Sun" is a generic term which can be applied to any star, but when we refer to "the sun," we refer to Sol only. So to call any other star system a "solar system" is a misnomer; there is only one solar system, and that is ours.

    There can, however, be any number of planetary systems (or, actually, the preferred term, "star systems").

  • 1) first extra solar planets? Hardly.

    2) first extra solar multi planet system?

    No. *Most* of the extra solar planetary systems have had multiple members. Even the first, the weird system arround a neutron star had multiple planets.

    3) First with hot Jovians? No. I remember reading about those years ago.

    4) First to be directly observed? No. No mention of direct observation. If they had, there would be some clue as to how a jovian mass planet survives that close to a star.

    5) First planetary system arround a sun like star?

    Possible. Vega is a planetary system still being formed. The neutron star system is obviously nothing like ours. I don't recall the rest.

    ...time to go check out,sci.astro, and alt.sci.planetary for some real information.
  • There's more than one pulsar system. PSR1829-10 was retracted. PSR1257+12 most definately was not and is considdered confirmed with multiple planets. (as much as any can be considdered confirmed. No extrasolar planets have been directly imaged)
    See plnt.htm []
  • That's what it's not the first of. Ok so it's the first extrasolar planet. And it's not the first extrasolar multi-planet system. It is something. The neutron star systems don't tell us much about "normal" planetary formation so it's more significant than it sounds.

    The press just got it wrong. What else is new?
  • Life can pop up anywhere that the right conditions form. But there are a few general rules, there's only so many elements that can serve as the molecular base of a living creature. Carbon is one and silicon is another. Silicon based life forms could exist places carbon based animals would die very quickly. For each planet type there's only so many variations you're goingto get. On a terrestrial planet you've going to have creatures that in some way are like our own. Physiology may be different but mechanics are going to be similar. On gas giants such as Jupiter I would assume there could be animals that float in the atmosphere, sort of like arial jellyfish. Deep space or airless planetoids would likely be places silicon based life forms would spring up.
    There's plenty of possibilities, afterall life as we know it is only a few coherent patterns.
  • It is a first other solar system discovered in the same sense that about half of the /. population made a first post today.

    Part of the problem is that those arrangements of gas cloused are so far away no–one really knows what is going on. We can't see it too well, and can't conduct any experiments. It's also in a different zone of time than ourself (albeit but a few dozen years).

    Joshua "I should have used dc to calculate the number of years so someone wouldn't humiliate me" Rodd

  • ...but you could have read about this yesterday (beating the "Strict Press Embargo until 10 am April 15") on memepool []. Hey, self-promotion is my middle name :-)
  • And, life as we know it would not exist in such a planetary systm, since no Earth sized planet could exist at the proper orbit with these large planets forcing their weight on their neighbors.

    What if one of the bigger planets had an approximately earth-sized moon?

  • Did you read the article? Where in there did anyone say they we have evidence of extraterrestrial life? Nowhere. All we (yes, I AM an astrophysicists...theoretical though) are saying is that our Sun is not alone in having a system of planets. System of planets != life on other planets. Not yet anyway.

  • Better example, less touchy subject.

    It is standard practice to use Galaxy when referring to our own Milky Way, and galaxy when talking about galaxies in general.
  • It IS true that we cannot see other planets, it isn't due to the amount of light that their star is emitting. IIRC, the gas disks around beta Pictoris and Vega were both imaged using a "stellar block" (I don't know what the actual name is, but, if you've seen "Who Shot Mr. Burns?", you get the idea). They have ways to block the light from the star, and see the dim objects in their immediate neighborhood. As someone else mentioned, you are diffraction limited to angular sizes much greater than the planets span at such distances.
  • Plug and chug on this, then...

    Newton's third law... For every force, there is an equal and opposite reaction force.

    When two gravitationally bound objects orbit each other, they are both orbiting the common center of mass. As measured from the center of mass, M_1*r_1 = M_2*r_2 where the r's are the radius of the orbit. If the orbits are elliptical, it doesn't matter. The center of mass of a two-body system doesn't change position with respect to the two bodies, the product remains constant. As one body moves farther from the center of mass, so does the other one, to preserve the equality.

    Stellar masses, although difficult to measure, can be found indirectly from spectral observation. The wobble in the stars position indicates the distance of the star from the center of mass, while the distance to the planet is directly measured. Thus, you get the planetary mass.
  • You know, you should read Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz". Gives you an idea of exactly what we might be preserving after 2000 years... As I recall, one of the holy relics was an incomplete shopping list.
  • So I wonder if there are any moons on those Gas giants. If one is 2 times the size of jupiter and has a similar year to Earth than maybe it's warm enough to have an atmosphere... that is if the giants gravity doesn't suck it right off...

    neat, I can hardly wait for FreeBSD/Mac/Windows versions of the SETI@home clients... all three machines will be searching :)
  • While I do agree that this combination (three gas giants) is quite odd, it hardly "invalidates" modern formation theories.

    Why? Because scientific theories are designed to predict the average cases - what should happen in a theoretical closed system with specific characteristics. The problem is that the universe is hardly this kind of system. Rather, it's a very real, huge system that is subject to every kind of improbability you can think of. This is what it means to say that "if it's not forbidden, it's compulsory". Thus, there is no reason to believe that there will be no exceptions when you apply such a theory to the real universe; the only way to know if it's a good theory is if these 'odd' ones are rare enough.

    So far, we only have two planetary systems on which to test them, and while our solar system can very well be the 'odd' one, it's just as likely that the new one is the 'odd' one. Or that both are 'odd'. Or that none is.
  • Perhaps they should take a non-linear approach to theorizing about the creation of planets?

    "However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist."

    Stephen Hawking
  • Are these actually gas giants?
    Are they balls of dirt?
    I have questions about the equipment they are using and such, but the link dosn't answer much.
    I'm also glad to see there is other stuff in teh universe!
  • I was going to point out something like this too. Glad I read down.

    For all we know, the planets were captured; the near-star jupiter mass formed from the star; any number of other things. It's bad possibility to invalidate a theory without something to replace it. It's good however, to go about replacing a theory in light of an oddity. It's no suprise that one of the first planetary systems we found would be composed of large masses.

  • As an aside,
    I do hope that if we meet aliens we call ourselves "Terrans" from the "Sol" system.

    Terran sounds much less wimpy than Human or Earthling.

    We can have a kick-ass "Terran Empire" with a cool logo, instead of a wussy "human federation" or whatever.

  • Unfortunately for many scientists, there's one popular formation theory that is not invalidated by this discovery. But they won't be talking about that one as this is further proof that it may be more Law than theory.

    Genesis 1:1
  • I'll ignore your disrespect,

    Looking at the small picture it's not so much an advancement in creation theory proofs, as much as a step or two backwards for the other theories.
    Looking at the big picture, when all others step back and one remains still, who's the volunteer in front?

  • Doug is right here. The astronomical community have hundreds or perhaps even thousands of stars under observation for planets. To detect a planet, the star must be observed to wobble throughout a whole orbit of the planet.

    This is why we are observing a lot of 'hot Jupiters'. It only takes a few days to observe the star through a whole orbit of the planet, and like Doug says, these are the easiest to observe, discover and confirm.

    As time passes, you will notice that planets which are discovered later orbit further from the parent star. In five to fifteen years, you'll be seeing reports of discoveries of extrasolar Jupiters at Jupiter's distance from the star, because it takes that long to get the data for a complete orbit. Thirty years of data are needed to spot planets at Saturn's distance.

    These are what astronomers are looking for: extrasolar equivalents of Jupiter and Saturn around stars like the Sun. These would be solar systems like our own system, and they will then use the sensitive instruments that will doubtless be available in thirty years to examine these systems for Earthlike worlds.
  • You don't necessarily need a very large telescope to achieve fine resolution. You can achieve the same effect by observing the same object with two widely-spaced telescopes, then combining the observations with a computer. This technique is called interferometry, and astronomers have been doing this for a while with radio telescopes. A group of telescopes is being constructed in Chile so that astronomers can perform interferometry at visible wavelengths.
  • I was getting tired of this solar system anyway.
  • Actually, the name of our moon is Luna, not 'the moon'. Which is the reason we have 'lunar eclipses' and 'solar eclipses' - not solar eclipses and moonar eclipses. :)

    We just call it the Moon, like we call our sun the Sun. It's name is Luna, just like the sun's name is Sol. And it's all greek (or is it latin?) to me.

  • Maybe we aren't behind.

    That sounds silly, I know, but consider: if NOW in our timeline, measured from the beginning of the universe, is about the average time it takes for intelligent life to develop and reach space-faring capability, then there are a bunch of races, scattered across the universe, just now developing the ability .... which will mean for one hell of a party when we all start meeting each other. :)
  • but how could we handle relations with another species of life, when we can't even live with those of another "race" here on earth.
  • Ok coupla days ago Rob had the 27 million dollar fusion reactor story...combine that with some serious cryo research into cold sleep and perhaps my kids will get to be in the first ramscoops out of the Sol system...provided of course that >we can maintain a civilization long enough to create the daughter colonies that would prevent humankind from becoming extinct or causing its own extiction...does anyone take the long view anymore??
  • say for instance we colonize europa (prolly the best choice actually we KNOW there is water ice there) the colony would still be very dependant on the motherworld. so any disaster, natural or not will still take out the in system colonies. leaving them without the resources to make the tools that make the tools that make things go. so really the survival of the race depends on leaving the cradle.
  • This isn't a "Solar system" this is a "plantary system."

    Sol, the Sun, is our's. Not their's. They can't have a "Solar System"

    It's just like the Moon. Other planets have moons but "The Moon" is our moon.

    This is pretty exciting though, I heard on E-Town that they are building a really wide telescope that uses lot's of little telescope and some computer magic to make them act like a super sized telescope and they are going to launch it into space like Voyager. By the time it get's to Mars they are expecting it to show visual light pictures of planets around other stars. In addition to that, they are going to have photospectroposcyasdf(sp?) equipment on board that can sniff what's in the atmosphere on those planets, that way they can tell if there are the right chemicals to produce life, or if we're lucky they might find smog and pollution.. I think those planets might get a bit close to that star but it's exciting, none the less.

  • Well I think the name Sol is accually derived from the word Solar and not the other way around. So Solar describes sun/star entities in general
  • ok, here's what i know. current theory amoung astronomers states that a star system will either form (a) a binary system or (b) planets. In the case of a planetary system developing, large gas-giant type planets are MORE PROBABLE to form farther out from the star. Probable. The galaxy is a big place. damn big. too large for the human mind to easily comprehend. the universe is filled with innumerable galaxies. there is no way to accurately predict what will happen in the formation of a new system, and the law of probability says that if it is physically possible to happen, then (considering the size of the universe) it probably has happened. Don't be surprised at anything they find in space.

    -Andy Martin
  • hahaha i love your comment
  • Interesting theological question. I'd probably throw these extra-solar planets in with their parent stars, which would put them on the fourth day. As for the firmaments on them, well, I would imagine they would be included, too.

    Though, from your statement, it sounds as though you don't expect the Christian media to believe the discoveries?
  • A comparable situation would be if the US were to ever go completely metric. What would we do with terms like "inching along" and "milestone" and "10-gallon hat"? Whenever something comes along which radically changes the worldview or the "normal" way of things, grammatical artifacts always result.
  • The Terrestrial Planet Finder is a NASA mission slated for the 2009-2012 launch range which will interferometrically detect terrestrial-massed planets... the mission has a preliminary web page here. [] Even more excited, the mission beyond TPF, called the Planet Imager right now, would actually put a 50x50 pixel spread image on the planet...

    And I do so love using the word "interferometrically"...
  • Many of these would use optical interferometry to get better resolution, much as is presently done with arrays of radio telescopes. This does *not* allow you to detect fainter objects - it _does_ let you see details more clearly in objects that you _can_ see, though.

    Let me qualify that a little. An interferometer with two small mirrors placed 100m apart can give you as much detection capability as a 100m diameter monolithic telescope. The big hurdle for these interferometers is to null out the light from the parent star so they don't get blinded...

    The Keck Observatory in Hawaii is one of the prominent ground-based interferometers. I believe they're set to do large baseline interferometry pretty soon. As for the NASA mission, it's called TPF for Terrestrial Planet Finder and is slated for 2010 or thereabouts. Present mission is to base the instrument in a solar orbit at about 1 au. A Jupiter sized (5.2 au) orbit was considered for a while, but the flight times were pretty long. The Eurpoeans are also playing around with a mission called Darwin.

  • A-ha, thanks for pointing that out. I was just racking my brain for term which didn't use a unit of length...
  • This is kind of off topic, but.. I heard an advertisement on the radio about a year ago, where they offered to name a star after someone in return for a donation to research causes.

    Anyone know more about this? I think I would be interested.
  • This is apparantly the fist time they've found _multiple_ planets around a single star, which apparantly qualifies as a solar system (that's not quite the definition of solar system that I've always used, but I'm not exactly the expert here). To me it sounds vaguely like a sports commentator saying: " up to bat is John Smith, who has hit more home runs on wet Tuesdays during his second at bat than any other player in the history of the game!"
    I'm eagerly awaiting the day they can find something Earth-sized around one of these stars. Such things are sure to exist, whether we actually find them or not, it would just be nice to be able to point to them sometimes. I don't think that there's anything particularly unusual about the huge gas giants they've been seeing. After all, that's about the best they can manage to resolve, so that's what they're going to see if they're out there. The conditions that allow them to detect these planets may also make these planetary systems unusual. So, it's no great surprise that these discoveries throw the existing theories of planet formation on their heads, especially when you consider the fact that all we've had to form theories with is our own system.
  • I think it's even more foolish to let your wishes for extraterrestial life lead you into believing that they just have to be out there. Don't mean to pick on you, but I hear a lot of people say things like "Well, it's just crazy to think we're the only life in the universe!" No, at this point, it's not crazy. We are in a severe data drought regarding ET life, and until we get some hard facts, it should suprise you to no end to find life elsewhere. You can get jaded about ET life later! :)
  • I read up on this sometime in the past. Shortly after astronomers found the first extrasolar planet (Pegasus 51-b). I am pretty excited about the idea of extrasolar systems, thats the reason for my account name (You know you always wondered :)

    Anyhow, AFAIK, they can't actually see the planets themselves. What happens, is that the star wobbles as the planets orbit it, kind of like with a binary star only to a lesser degree. Astronomers can see this with spectrascopes via the doppler effect (red and blue shifts in the spectrum). And with the calculated mass and revolution period of the orbiting objects they can figure out the distance, revolution period, number of bodies, etc.

    Now, the planets observed (one way or another) all seem to be a) very massive; b) close to the star; and c) close to our sun. This is just because they are the easiest to be seen from our vantage. Bigger mass means more wobble. Close to star means more wobble. I don't see this as any difference to any theories. It is just easier to see the oddballs. But I am no expert so who am I to say?

    Also, just because a planet has a greater mass than Jupiter doesn't mean it is a gas giant. Like I said they can't *see* the planets in any sense of the word AFAIK. It could be a really massive rocky planet. Besides, I wouldn't know how a planet can keep it's atmosphere so close to the sun. It would probably be blown away by solar winds (I am probably WAY off here). Look at Mercury which has an extremely thin atmosphere.

    I am no expert so I don't claim anything I said as true it just a summary of what I read some time back. Please correct me.

    Also, any place that keeps track of extrasolar planetary systems? That would make a nifty slashbox!


  • And 15 minutes ago you "knew" we
    where alone in the universe.

    "Men In Black"
  • Here's a link that has a cute orbital simulation, copies of the paper, and where to find Ups Andromidae in the sky. Much more info for the interested. html []


  • .. the term should be "planetary system." The name of our sun being Sol, the term "Solar system" describes our planetary system. This being the case, "extrasolar planetary system" would seem to be the best phrase to describe something like this.
  • If humans were to ever set up a colony in another "planatary system" and used solar panels, whould we have to change the name to stellar panels instead? Or maybe Proximus Centari panels?

    Well, it's an interesting question, and we could come up with several other examples. When we establish a colony on Mars and are describing an honest, straightforward colonist, would we describe him/her as being "down-to-Mars?" If we found a new, inhabitable planet with a sizable moon and set a spacecraft down on it, would we call it a "lunar" landing?

    Over time, any language is going to pick up words (adjectives, specifically) that are tied to a specific place or object, inadvertantly or otherwise. The only point I'm trying to make is that "solar system" in this context is not strictly correct, and yes, I am picking a nit (as I admitted in the subject line.)

The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work. -- Herbert V. Prochnow