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Space Science

Tatooine-like Planet Discovered 403

ATP writes "CNN is reporting that a planet has been discovered in a solar system with 3 suns. The observation brings into doubt the theory stating that planets form from the dust orbiting around a single sun. The discovery also resulted in a new method of searching for extrasolar planets-- until now most searching focused only on single-sun systems."
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Tatooine-like Planet Discovered

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  • Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcc ( 14761 ) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Friday July 15, 2005 @12:52AM (#13070134) Homepage
    It's called nightfall [amazon.com] and it's by Isaac Asimov. It's not one of his better works-- it has some neat ideas in it, but it was originally a short story that was later extended to novel length and as a result it feels rather stretched. Perhaps the original short story is better, I don't know (I've only read the novel).
  • No (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jcorno ( 889560 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @01:04AM (#13070204)
    The observation brings into doubt the theory stating that planets form from the dust orbiting around a single sun.

    No, it doesn't. That's assuming the star system is as old as the planet. There's no way they can see how the four move relative to each other, so they're just guessing. The two most likely scenarios I can think of are that a star with a planet drifted into a binary system, or three stars and failed star (gas giant) managed--by chance--to drift together without crashing into each other. When they can show me four stars in eliptical orbits in the same plane, then I'll be impressed, but it'll still only suggest a big star had two gas giants big enough to start burning.
  • by lowem ( 899426 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @01:12AM (#13070241) Homepage
    Cool! But when it comes to our own planet, Google doesn't seem to pull off the same trick :)
    http://www.google.com/search?q=earth+suns [google.com]
  • Re:Too convenient (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ogre7299 ( 229737 ) <jjtobinNO@SPAMumich.edu> on Friday July 15, 2005 @01:22AM (#13070291)
    If you had done your research on this before speaking, you would find that except for one or two exceptions, all extrasolar planets have been indirectly discovered. They were discovered by using spectroscopy over a sometimes long period of time,depending on the planet's orbit. The shift in the spectral lines over time allows observers to calculate the radial velocity of a star with respect to the center of mass of the planetary system. This information in turn infers that there is a planet orbiting the star and certain characteristics such as mass of the planet, eccentricity of the orbit, and distance from the star. www.howstuffworks.com has a very simple description of extrasolar planet searching.

    Also, the Spitzer space telescope has directly confirmed the existence of already known planets that were discovered using the indirect method. It is possible with the Spitzer telescope rather than Hubble because stars put out much less light in the infrared than in the visible wavelengths.
  • by slashdotnickname ( 882178 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @01:31AM (#13070335)
    I wonder how different things would be with three suns.

    Appearances aside, not much.

    If the planet's environment is life-friendly, then it's only a matter of time before life evolves on it. Lifeforms will then thrive on the resources until a resource limit is met and competition (i.e. "survival of the fitest") kicks in.

    Because of the survival benifits that cooperation and intelligence have, some lifeforms will take an evolutionary path towards that... more complex behaviors will likely evolve, eventually leading up to societal-type levels of interactions and intelligence.

    Somewhere out there's a mass of stuff wondering what a world with only one sun would be like...
  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Friday July 15, 2005 @01:43AM (#13070376) Homepage Journal
    Appearances aside, not much.

    You seem to be making the argument that essentially a habitable planet is a habitable planet is a habitable planet. Don't you think, though, that if Earth had three suns, life might have evolved in a vastly different fashion?

    I don't know the answer, but it does seem to me that many of the assumptions we take for granted about organic life and its development might not apply on a world with three suns. For example, on a "desert planet" like Tatooine, there may be no aquatic mammals. Assuming current speculation about the evolution of mammals on Earth is true, perhaps on a desert planet large-brained creatures might not ever evolve.

    My ignorance in matters of biology outstrips my knowledge of the subject by a wide margin, so I am just poking around curiously to see what others think.

  • Drake equation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rhinobird ( 151521 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @02:56AM (#13070623) Homepage
    Seems like the more stars we look at, the more planets we fine. Maybe we can start to make educated guesses as to what at least one of the values in the Drake equation is, instead of the wild ass, pull a number out of my butt, guesses we had been using.
  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arimeq ( 900007 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @03:30AM (#13070737)
    Short story is lot better. I read both short and novel version. Short version tells the story of final few hours before the Nightfall, while the novel begins earlier and ends after Nightfall. I definitely prefer original, short version - it keeps the tension.
  • by LittleBigLui ( 304739 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @03:45AM (#13070798) Homepage Journal
    ... but only in a certain village in tunisia [itunisie.com].
  • by PigleT ( 28894 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @06:14AM (#13071216) Homepage
    Think about the gravitational field shapes required to get stellar dust to coalesce into planets.

    With 3 bodies, you have no guarantee that there'll ever be a stable node in the field, let alone that enough matter will land there to bunch together.

    Pretty neat fluke if it did, mind. :)
  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Listen Up ( 107011 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @10:24AM (#13072732)
    It's funny when an intellectual post gets posted on Slashdot, like your post above, and it gets a score of 1. But, when someone mentions something stupid about Star Wars they get a score of 4 or 5.

    Then all of the non-intellectual/non-educated/non-critical thinking/non-analytical/etc. people start jumping on this poorly worded article about how all science is just guessing and doubt, blah blah blah, we don't know anything about our universe, blah blah blah, religion/fantasy/make-believe/folklore/etc. is another answer, blah blah blah. It's utterly pathetic.

    If this is indeed a planet that shows scientists that current astrophysical hypothesis/theory may be incomplete, that is all that it is doing, showing scientists that a current hypothesis/theory is incomplete. This will lead to further thinking, understanding, and refinement and a furthering of our understanding of the universe's laws as a whole. That is the entire point of science and the scientific process.

    I, for one, am excited to see how this discovery will lead to new understandings and new scientific discovery.
  • by Clueless Nick ( 883532 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @10:42AM (#13072932) Journal
    Speaking of gravity (I know this would be a big rehash), isn't it funny that every planet the intrepid explorers (in most of the Sci-Fi movies) land on has a permissibly breathable atmosphere and a gravitational pull equal to that on earth (or home planet)? Even the 'small planet' of Tatooine or Naboo has the same gravity. Even the same ambient temperatures (except for the snow-filled planet, of course, where the native animals' innards are surprisingly warm, and it snows - I wonder how the water evaporates).

    The native creatures aren't usually scared of the aliens. They don't welcome them open-armed either. You can find palatable (and hopefully non-toxic) food everywhere. (Yechch, I am a born vegetarian).

    Oh, by the way, I am a big Star Wars fan - I watched the first two releases when I was too young for such observations.

    -clueless Nick
  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @11:12AM (#13073235)
    not to mention how many space aliens either speak or understand english, and how humans seem to have undo influence over everything. Not to mention no one seems to mind all those starships getting so close to inhabited planets, since they are all fearsome potential kinetic energy weapons in the event of the slightest malfunction or pilot error
  • by proteonic ( 688830 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @03:24PM (#13076138)
    Umm.. actually that's not precisely true. If you want to talk probabilities, then assume you model the universe as some sort of Markov process. If the chain isn't ergodic, or more precisely, if the state where life evolves is not recurrent, then the chain will never return to that state, no matter how long time runs on. I'm arguing that just because life evolved once doesn't imply that the probability of life evolving AGAIN is greater than zero (which I think is what you were saying). The marginal probablility of life evolving is greater than zero (since we're here), but not the conditional. Those conditions which existed here when life evolved may not have existed elsewhere, and they may be the only conditions under which life can evolve, and they may never exist again, anywhere. The probability of all these things being true is non-zero, so in the limit, given that life has evolved, the probability of life evolving again doesn't approach 100%. Of course, this is a ridiculous model.
  • by Rude Turnip ( 49495 ) <valuation&gmail,com> on Friday July 15, 2005 @04:05PM (#13076561)
    They all speak a language called "Basic" in the SW galaxy. It sounds like English so the intended audience can understand what everyone is saying (because Star Wars is fiction, you see). However, to make the language seem "exotic," they do use a ficticious alphabet.

    Since the Republic had been around for about 10,000 years and presumably some semblance of galactic civilization for at least several thousand before that, it should be no surprise that an Esperanto-like language would eventually come about to facilitate communication.
  • by DrMrLordX ( 559371 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @04:35PM (#13076866)
    That analogy isn't correct. In order for space to be like the US, it has to have some interstellar equivelant of Stuckey's and Wall Drug, which it does not(unless you're thinking of Ferenginar).
  • by bonehead ( 6382 ) on Friday July 15, 2005 @06:09PM (#13077707)
    "more sun = better crops"

    Not necessarily "better", but certainly different.

    Many fruit trees will not bloom or produce fruit without a certain number of hours each season below a certain temperature. If I were to dig up the peach tree in my front yard and transplant it to Florida, it would never produce another piece of fruit. (There are, of course, other varieties of peach trees that do just fine in warmer climates.)

    So, with no darkness, and no winter, plants would certainly evolve differently, but it's hard to be certain that they'd be better.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.