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Space Science

Dusty Disc May Mean Other Earths 289

DoraLives writes "According to the BBC, astronomers say they have evidence for Earth-like planets orbiting a nearby star. The star in question is Vega, which is nice and close (as stars go), quite young (also as stars go), and one of the brightest stars in the sky. Apparently, 'Vega has a disc of dust circling it, and at least one large planet which could sweep debris aside allowing smaller worlds like Earth to exist.' Should be interesting to keep an eye on it as the years roll by as the disk rotates and our optical powers keep growing."
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Dusty Disc May Mean Other Earths

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:31PM (#7603428)
    You shouldn't use the bible to construct the human timeline.
  • by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:32PM (#7603439) Homepage Journal
    The more Earth-type planets we find in our tiny observable radius of the Universe, the greater the statistical probability that others exist where we can't see them.

    The likelihood of other meaningful life in the Universe just got better. And I for one welcome the possibility.

  • Contact (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Necro Spork ( 260099 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:33PM (#7603444)
    Will everyone else now belive me that Carl Sagan may know more than he is letting on?
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:33PM (#7603462) Homepage Journal
    I kind of doubt anyone there is looking at us right now. From the (somewhat fuzzy) description in the article, it sounds like what we're observing is a disc of dust surrounding Vega with proto-planets forming within it. It was probably several hundred million years after the Solar System passed through that phase before life even got started on Earth. According to currently accepted models of planetary formation, those proto-planets would be pretty hellish places right now; their surfaces will be blazing hot and suffering constant bombardment by other, slightly smaller bodies. Being anywhere on the surface of one would be like being at Ground Zero of a massive nuclear strike.
  • Re:Soon... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sisukapalli1 ( 471175 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:34PM (#7603470)
    There is a high likelihood that one species is at a much more advanced stage than the other. Most likely, we'd be the more advanced ones (primarily due to the age of Sun and earth).

    It would be like the pilgrims landing in the US. Complete colonization one way or other. Not much scope for an arms race...

  • Life imitates art (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lildogie ( 54998 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:34PM (#7603472)
    Vega was the source of the extraterrestrial signal in Carl Sagan's "Cosmos."
  • by bigHairyDog ( 686475 ) * on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:36PM (#7603489)
    ... they'd be laughed off the stage.

    Seriously, there's a chance that a big planet might have cleared enough space so as to not preclude the existence of a planet the same size as ours

  • by JamesP ( 688957 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:40PM (#7603534)
    Apparently everybody is thinking of earth-like planets and stuff. Sorry, but NO.

    1 - Vega is 25 light-years away. That's around the corner and "today" in astronomical terms

    2 - Carl Sagan picked Vega not because of planets, but because there were none, just a bunch of dust... There was a RELAY there, not aliens...

    3 - The news actually said about process that could happen; a balance between a dusty ring and an outer planet...

  • by Zone-MR ( 631588 ) <slashdot&zone-mr,net> on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:42PM (#7603567) Homepage
    There is no scientific theory that disproves it, so why not?

    What makes you believe that you/we are the most intelligent and important civillisation in the universe? The universe is pretty big, and that's a very arrogant assumption to make.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:45PM (#7603594)
    The article suggests that Vega is only 350 million years old. Moreover, at about 3 times the mass of the Sun, the lifespan of Vega will only be about 1 billion years. Given that it took about 3.5 billion years for life to get going, it seems unlikely that planets around Vega have (or ever could have) interesting lifeforms, even if an Earth-like planet is present.
  • Wow... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by i_am_syco ( 694486 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @06:49PM (#7603639)
    I thought I'd be the first one with a Contact joke. Seems I'm one of the last.
  • Should be interesting to keep an eye on it as the years roll by

    Yes, because the 1st billion years (or so, give or take a couple hundred million) of Earth's existance were oh so exciting. And don't even get me started about the 2nd billion! Wow!
    And the third billion... oh, my, god!

    As the years roll by? What is that supposed to mean? That maybe, we might be lucky enough to see a planet form over the next 100 million generations or so? Wooppee!

    I'll be excited when someone turns that slideshow into an animated GIF, ok?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2003 @07:02PM (#7603807)
    I thought that life started 3.5 billion years before now, not that it took 3.5 billion to instantiate. Am I wrong? (actually, I think it's 3.8 billion)
  • by Birger Johansson ( 416220 ) on Monday December 01, 2003 @07:10PM (#7603891)
    I assume you mean *multicellular* life, or possibly *intelligent* life. The Vega system should be just old enough for the first primitive life forms to have emerged
    -This could mean an opportunity to observe the very transition from a "pre-DNA world" (based om RNA or even more primitive genetic substrates) to a "DNA world" -this is itself probably even more interesting than watching the planet-forming process around Vega.
  • by Bitsy Boffin ( 110334 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @05:54AM (#7607479) Homepage
    Your point of looking for fish seems more analagous to looking for humans. Sure if you're looking for humans then you are best to look for earth like planets, since we know that's the environment humans live in - if you look for fish, look in the ocean, if you look for humans look on an earth like planet.

    But the search for ET life is just that, a search for life, not humans - we cannot say that life can only be found on earth like planets, we can't even say that in our solar system life can only be found on earth, it's entirely possible that there is life on other celestial bodies in our neighbourhood.

    Even if we take the search for intelligent ET life, it's still a search for an unknown life in an unknown environment, so the fixation on earth-like planets is silly.

    Far to often I think we assume that ET life must be like earth life, IMHO it's fairly unlikely, considering the (as far as is known) small percentage of planets that are earth like.

    Same as if we were looking for "any" life on earth, where do you look, well, everywhere you don't limit yourself to anything in particular because life can't exist there - it can, life can exist (almost) anywhere on earth, so why not anywhere in the universe?

    There is one advantage in looking for earth like planets, they could become useful to our distant descendants in the future, probably as a destination for a many-generational ship.
  • by guybarr ( 447727 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2003 @10:34AM (#7608479)

    I think the real threat to our planet is ourselves, not our sun.

    I think you ment biosphere, not planet ...

    Thus, I hope we do not find a backup planet. I hope this is it.
    If we foul our planet to the point it is unlivable, we deserve our fate.

    First, IMHO this is utterly wrong factually: once a society colonizes
    space, all it'll need is energy and materials. I suggest that actually
    there may be few solar systems which are completely uninhabitable.

    Second, from the pragmatic POV, this sounds to me like morality gone
    completely insane: are you truly sugesting that you'd willfully risk
    total genocide for humanity (and its surrounding biological system, BTW)
    just because you think we "deserve it" ?

    That's the largest-scale suicidal philosophy I have ever seen.

    Not, of course, that I am in any position to affect change on this issue. Either a habitable planet is in range or not. Either we find it, or not.

    Wrong. In fact, for a single individual, a researcher may be in one
    of the best positions to affect humanity's future course.

    Certainly we should try.

    To this I agree ;-)

    I just hope it is not too easy to leave Earth for the rich and powerful.

    Why not ? if it'll easy for them in several decades, it'll probably
    be easy for others later.

    And anyway, don't worry. Space travel is going to be risky buisness
    for a long time. If a rich and powerful person is willing to take on
    personal risks to explore a new fronteer, he/she'll probably be
    exactly the kind of person needed up there.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats