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Space Science

Potential 'Avatar' Gas Giant Exoplanet Discovered 142

Luminary Crush writes "A gas giant of approximately 1.5 Mj (Jupiter Mass) was discovered on October 22nd around the binary star system HD 176051B. It's not known with certainty which component of the binary system the planet is in orbit around at this point as both stars in HD 176051B are relatively Sol-sized (1.07 and .71 solar masses). Named 176051B b, this new exoplanet orbits within the star system's habitable zone, and if mapped onto our solar system with relative distance from our Sun it would place the large planet between Earth and Mars. While it's unlikely that such a gas giant could host life as we know it (though it's hypothesized), the location of the big planet opens up the intriguing idea of the realization of some of science fiction's famously habitable moons, Pandora and Endor. Look no further than our own solar system to see moons with the potential ingredients for life — just add heat."
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Potential 'Avatar' Gas Giant Exoplanet Discovered

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  • Intelligent life... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Slur ( 61510 ) on Monday October 25, 2010 @06:16AM (#34010098) Homepage Journal

    If intelligent life evolved out of a moon ecosystem where the main source of heat was tectonic stress, and the main liquid was methane or ammonia, you can bet they'd kick our ass.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Monday October 25, 2010 @06:36AM (#34010162) Homepage Journal

    Note, if we get an efficient engine that can keep accelerating (no "idle flight" period), it would be 60-70 years for earth-based observers, but much shorter for the crew. The speed limit of 1c is relevant to surrounding universe, but from the spaceship crew standpoints, the engine power - acceleration - speed - distance - travel time relation behaves in mostly newtonian way. If they expend power needed to travel at 10c according to newtonian mechanics, it will take (in their perception) 1/10 the time of travel at 1c to get there.

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) * on Monday October 25, 2010 @06:57AM (#34010260) Homepage Journal

    The Cosmos Series had a very good explanation of floaters and sinkers [] and some predators etc... /huh huh huh floaters.

  • Re:Big Just (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Monday October 25, 2010 @07:12AM (#34010334) Homepage

    Of course, you could heat the environment of an already-existing gas giant, but how would that happen?

    Yeah, how in the universe [] this could ever [] be possible? []

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday October 25, 2010 @07:17AM (#34010358) Homepage

    If we found a plentiful antimatter source, and built something never yet produced but only really theorised (i.e. an antimatter-based propulsion of any kind), and make it into a fairly compact but reliable propulsion system, of which one example is bought and attached to a particular extra-solar-capable chassis (of which the only two ever produced were made in the 70's and are currently used to transport a couple of LP's in a random direction that we have no control over any longer), etc. etc. etc.

    As with anything to do with extra-solar propulsion, we won't see it for many, many decades and when we do, almost all our extra-solar attempts will be embarrassingly overtaken by the next-decade's attempt that will go faster (and the original mission will either have to keep going to somewhere that will be already colonised / studied even if it takes several generations, or turn back and spend their entire lives and those of their grandchildren trying to get back to Earth, or have to "merge" with the new attempt and thus have spent all their lives in a tin can when they could have just sat on Earth).

    The best solution, if we were to put all our efforts to getting to any such system (which seems unlikely and extraordinarily risky), would be something based on the "water-in-the-desert" method. Go a bit of the way. Leave a small cache of supplies / fuel / resources. Return. Go again, but a tiny bit further, and leave more stuff. Go again and leave more stuff. When we have sufficient stuff cached, make a SECOND cache and so on.

    In spacecraft terms, that means making something that can get to the moon easily. When we have that as an ordinary operational service, we can make trips to the next planet ready. When we have regular trips to all the planets, we can start veering slightly out of the solar system. When we have that ready, we can actually aim for the next best system by firing our best ships at it. They *will* get overtaken, but we can overtake them with an almost-empty ship with better technology, absorb their knowledge/resources and continue on the journey. Then the next ship will overtake that, pick them all up, melt down the old ship for repair-metal and continue. Eventually the people would get to some other system but we can't *ever* expect to just shoot something at the stars and expect it to work.

    This isn't the Moon (a mere ten-times the Equator's distance, and your average reindeer can travel the distance of the equator about 2-3 times during his life, your car should be able to do about four-equators-worth of travel easily before it finally dies (all of mine have), etc.). This is another solar system (the NEAREST of which is 4.37 light years, which is 1,033,339,810 (and a bit) equators. A BILLION equators. And that's the NEAREST damn thing, and quite boring really.

    50 years is way, way, way, optimistic for even a probe to another systems (hell, we've only "recently" done it with a probe out of the solar system at all, or a probe on another planet) - such a propulsion system would basically solve every energy need on Earth, so it's not a "small" development. To be honest, even 100, or 150, or 200 years, is being optimistic. Sometimes optimism pays off but we're not even just talking about doing something which we haven't done, at all, anywhere, in over 40 years - set foot on something that you could, theoretically, drive to within a few years in an ordinary car if you could pave a road there. We're talking about improving the entire accomplishments of all space travel by several (possibly dozen) orders of magnitude in only 2, 3 or 4 times the entire history of space travel itself (i.e. somewhere so far away that parts of a car would probably have destroyed themselves through their own radioactive half-life before it got even close).

    If we could do that with cars, extrapolating from the 60's, then we'd all be driving 1000mph cars that get 500mpg (actually, probably a LOT more than that).

    It's not *impossible*, it's just silver-suits and three-course-meal

  • by Ceyx ( 32388 ) on Monday October 25, 2010 @08:29AM (#34010666) Homepage

    There is a very nice SCI-FI story about life in strange locations here, it is called "Passages in the Void" []


  • by Theory of Everything ( 696787 ) on Monday October 25, 2010 @10:46AM (#34012152)

    Any questions? I'll try to answer responses to this post.

    How can so much about the planet be observed without knowing which star the planet orbits? I'd think that information would be critical before any of the other information could be inferred.

    The planet was discovered by measuring variations in the separation of the two stars. Their separation changes very slowly as the stars orbit each other, and on top of that motion, we found a very small wobble in their separation that repeats every ~3 years. That 3 year effect is the reaction of one of the stars to the planet orbiting it. Since we are measuring the relative separations of the stars, there is no way to know which one is wobbling. For the science content, it turns out not to matter nearly as much as one might think.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @01:56AM (#34021624) Homepage Journal

    Yes, these calculations include that.
    4 light years to Proxima, top speed of 2c at halfway point, averaged speed 1c, 4 years to get there. It would be much shorter for a speedy fly-by, accelerating all the time.

  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @02:11AM (#34021678) Homepage Journal

    There are 6 billion people. Do you really believe none could be found desperate/crazy/naive enough to want to go there?

    btw, Centauri at 1g roundtrip would take 8 traveler's years and only ~12 earth years. Not quite as bad.

    Still, with E=mc^2, to get 1kg to 2c equivalent you need to burn 2kg of matter in a nuclear fusion entirely. Plus whatever is needed to bring last of that fuel near the 2c... rocket fuel equations apply. That's why Proxima may be still within reach, further places - not quite.

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