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Space Science

Super-Earths Discovered Orbiting Nearby, Sun-Like Star 242

likuidkewl writes "Two super-earths, 5 and 7.5 times the size of our home, were found to be orbiting 61 Virginis a mere 28 light years away. 'These detections indicate that low-mass planets are quite common around nearby stars. The discovery of potentially habitable nearby worlds may be just a few years away,' said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC. Among hundreds of our nearest stellar neighbors, 61 Vir stands out as being the most nearly similar to the Sun in terms of age, mass, and other essential properties."
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Super-Earths Discovered Orbiting Nearby, Sun-Like Star

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  • Re:mmmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:02PM (#30436170)

    Dream on, you're on Slashdot.

  • Re:Yes, nearby (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:06PM (#30436220)

    What relativistic effects are you expecting at .0002c ?

  • Re:Yes, nearby (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:07PM (#30436236)

    Not so much a problem for the folks on the spacecraft, relativity can make the journey very manageable for them.

    I think we're a long way off building a spaceship that can achieve the speeds where that effect would make any difference.

  • Re:fat (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:11PM (#30436280)

    BMI calculates mass, not weight.

  • Re:Fishy... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:20PM (#30436414)

    Virgins one through nine ARE the scientists.

    Then I would like to be paired with 7 of 9. I always thought she was hot!

  • by zill ( 1690130 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:26PM (#30436498)

    Why is everyone surprised that super-earths are orbiting other stars? I've always wondered that.

    Because the the term "super-earth" is intentionally used to misled the general public into thinking that those planets have a Earth-like habitat, which imply the possibility of colonization.

    If the title was instead "Heavier than Earth rocky planets found outside of the solar system" no one would read it.

  • Re:mmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:06PM (#30436952)

    sure. the diseases are a free bonus.

  • by Stupid McStupidson ( 1660141 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:19PM (#30437100)

    at least until we find something in the .8 to 2.0 Earth masses range which would be quite the news.

    Wake me up when you find a .8 to 1.2 Earth masses with oxygen and water.

  • Re:mmmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:25PM (#30437176)

    Else you could teach the virgins what you like and help them develop their own tastes, that way you quite literally have a hand-picked assortment of women that live by your will.

    Think outside the box next time.

  • Re:Yes, nearby (Score:0, Insightful)

    by WheelDweller ( 108946 ) <> on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:34PM (#30437270)

    Compared to that, the Starbucks in Mississippi is "nearby" if you walk. I mean REALLY nearby.

    I'm kinda tired of the "like Earth" suggestions with 15G gravity, or oxygen with sulfuric acid or something. place close. No place suitable. Space exploration is dead only on TV.

  • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:52PM (#30437534)
    It's more like that the Drake equation has gone from an relation where all the variables are unknown to one where about half the variables are unknown. Advances in astronomy have allowed us to refine estimates of the number of stars in the galaxy, the fraction of those stars with planets, and the age of the galaxy. Studies like those the article refers to could potentially pin a value down on the "number of planets that could potentially support life per star with planets." The very meaning of that variable, however, depends on what characteristics you would consider necessary to support life.

    From the progress of exoplanet searches so far, it does seem likely that some planets will be found that could support life in an earth-like sense (terrestrial with liquid water, at minimum). So, maybe four variables with potentially supportable estimates (and exoplanet searching is in its infancy, so that estimate will develop over time).

    But the other variables in the Drake equation? What fraction of "habitable" planets actually develop life? What fraction of those develop intelligent life? Intelligent life that sends out detectable signals into space? And what is the expected lifetime of such civilizations? Values we might assign to those variables would be pure conjecture, with our only evidence being our own anecdote of existence.
  • Re:72-Virginis (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sanat ( 702 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:06PM (#30437740)

    You misunderstand... that one virgin 72 years old

    Wait until Osama Bin Laden finds THAT out!

  • Re:Yes, nearby (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:02PM (#30438482)

    A generation ship wouldn't just be an epic feat of engineering, it would be an epic feat of engineering that has no payoff for centuries (from the point of view of the population assigned to the ship, unless just being on the ship is a payoff for them) or millenia (from the point of view of the rest of the planet.) So, really, where is the huge investment going to come from? Epic engineering projects -- the Panama Canal, for instance -- do happen, but they happen because the people paying for them expect some substantial benefit that will start accruing in a reasonable time.

    Yep. See my other comment, where I made rude comments about the likelihood of it ever being done.

    That said, one must consider AGW at some point. If we're going to successfully deal with maintaining the climate of the planet at some idealized level (note, by the way, that I don't think that that is either necessary or desirable, but many people do), then we'll have to develop societal structures that allow us to think in very long terms (centuries, at a minimum).

    Given that we develop such societal structures, the possibility of spending vast amounts of money with no payoff in sight for centuries becomes a lot more credible. After all, stopping AGW will require the expenditure of trillions of dollars, with no real benefit visible within the lifetime of any now alive.

    The potential payoff of a generation ship? Well, if it works, it removes the current limitation on the potential lifespan of humanity (the lifetime of the Sun). And if one of them can work, then we can build another, and another.

    Note that constructing one generation ship per millenium from every solar system with more than one billion population would be a relatively trivial undertaking, and would allow us to colonize every place in this galaxy within about half a million years.

    Which might sound like a long time, but homo heidelbergensis (what used to be called archaic homo sapiens) lasted longer than that, so there's not much reason to believe that homo sapiens can't survive that long.

  • Re:mmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kick6 ( 1081615 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:17AM (#30443596) Homepage

    61 Virgins? Can I trade them for 8 slutty broads that know what they're doing?

    I'll take a SINGLE slutty broad as long as she wants to sleep with ME. Everyone forgets that part.....

  • Re:Yes, nearby (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:28AM (#30443748)

    I don't think a generation ship is entirely beyond the realms of possibility within the next 50 years.

    The main problem with that kind of effort isn't the engineering, it's the motivation. Yes, it might be possible to build something like that within a century, but that would mean many trillions of $, the concerted efforts of thousands of scientists, the work of dozens of countries pumping a significant portion of their GDP into a cooperative effort, etc.

    Politically, that's pretty much impossible. You're never going to get that kind of effort without some sort of direct and real threat to humanity that absolutely requires a generation ship (like an earth destroying asteroid--the kind that would smash the planet to pieces, not just rip up the biosphere). And that's unlikely (even more unlikely that we would get enough advanced notice of such a threat to pull it off anyway).

    It's a nice dream, but it's still just science fiction. I personally doubt that any of us will ever live to even see man walk on another planet in our own solar system. Any hopes of crossing the almost inconceivably vast distances of interstellar space is just fantasy right now, and would probably require some pretty radical long-term technological advancements in a very distant future (assuming human technological progress continues to advance and we don't blow ourselves up in the meanwhile). Sadly, I think the era of such dreams of space has come to an end. Sputnik initiated a brief shining period when it seemed like anything was within reach, but that only lasted about 20 years before reality came crashing in and budgets got slashed.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas