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Space Earth Sun Microsystems Science

Astronomers Find An Earth-Size World Just 11 Light Years Away (arstechnica.com) 175

Astronomers have discovered a planet 35 percent more massive than Earth in orbit around a red dwarf star just 11 light years from the Sun. "The planet, Ross 128 b, likely exists at the edge of the small, relatively faint star's habitable zone even though it is 20 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun," reports Ars Technica. "The study in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics finds the best estimate for its surface temperature is between -60 degrees Celsius and 20 degrees Celsius." From the report: This is not the closest Earth-size world that could potentially harbor liquid water on its surface -- that title is held by Proxima Centauri b, which is less than 4.3 light years away from Earth and located in the star system closest to the Sun. Even so, due to a variety of factors, Ross 128 b is tied for fourth on a list of potentially most habitable exoplanets, with an Earth Similarity Index value of 0.86. In the new research, astronomers discuss another reason to believe that life might be more likely to exist on Ross 128 b. That's because its parent star, Ross 128, is a relatively quiet red dwarf star, producing fewer stellar flares than most other, similar-sized stars such as Proxima Centauri. Such flares may well sterilize any life that might develop on such a world.
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Astronomers Find An Earth-Size World Just 11 Light Years Away

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Too far.

    • If there was technologically advanced civilization there you could send them a message and get a response in your lifetime. Seems pretty close to me.

      • If there was technologically advanced civilization there you could send them a message and get a response in your lifetime

        But if they're really advanced, they might never reply to our message.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Or come and take our planet. Of course, if they're more advanced than us, they know about us already and are likely on their way.

          It has always amazed me that scientists believe it's a good idea to broadcast our presence. We have zero reason to expect a warm welcome.

          • Considering that the laws of life, no matter what form that life takes, are universal, I cannot help but agree. If there is even remotely any kind of competition for resources on a planet, a more advanced, more aggressive species will displace others, and it is likely that the one that prevails is one that is aggressive, xenophobic, competitive and ruthless, at least towards those that don't belong to their own species.

            Considering that we barely manage to leave this planet, and even that only for rather bri

            • There is only one thing on earth not found elsewhere in our own solar system or on any other object in the visible universe - our form of life. It's because three billion years of life has created billions of unique living things that contain a treasure trove of information and technology. Aliens would have good reason to send at least a probe as extracting this information completely would be far and away the most valuable resource. Further, humans are intelligent and it may be in the aliens best intere
            • If there is even remotely any kind of competition for resources on a planet, a more advanced, more aggressive species will displace others, and it is likely that the one that prevails is one that is aggressive, xenophobic, competitive and ruthless, at least towards those that don't belong to their own species.

              On the other hand, for a species to reach the level of interplanetary travel, there's a good argument that they'd need to be very good at communication and cooperation. Isolated animals don't develop technology. Cultures do. What's more, a lot of the need for competition of resources comes from those resources being limited. If a species became advanced enough to randomly go roaming the universe picking fights and conquering planets, it's not clear that they'd bother, since they could likely go find ano

            • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

              It's 'pretty decent' for us, because we are adapted to these conditions. Life from another planet would probably find Earth to be at least partially uninhabitable. They are very unlikely to be able to breath out mix of atmospheric gases.

              Detecting our signals would be very, very difficult and would require a gigantic receiver. Don't see it happening tbh.

            • It would be like flying to Europe for a Big Mac and passing about 15,000 McDonalds on the way.

              To travel long distances in space you have to really not need anything. If you did need something, you won't last long. So we are probably talking about a post-scarcity society. To them gold, diamonds, jewels will be trifles. To space faring civilizations, "Money is a sign of poverty".

            • ... it is likely that the one that prevails is one that is aggressive, xenophobic, competitive and ruthless, at least towards those that don't belong to their own species.

              It seems equally - or more - likely that an agressive, xenophobic, competitive, and ruthless life form would destroy itself before it could travel between the stars, or keep itself in a state of near-constant war that would make interstellar ambitions a perceived waste of resources. The kind of individual who would lead such a civilization would almost certainly have to be so concerned with maintaining their power and privilege that it seems unlikely they would ever become technologically advanced enough t

          • It's the Carl Sagan "all sufficiently advanced civilisations must also be benign" view.

            Oddly enough Mars Attacks lampoons this very effectively. E.g.

            http://www.imdb.com/title/tt01... [imdb.com]

            Professor Donald Kessler: We know they're extremely advanced technologically, which suggests - very rightfully so - that they're peaceful. An advanced civilization, by definition, is not barbaric.

            Which is basically a bit of equivocation - technological prowess and being civilised aren't the same thing. As Orwell observed

            http://orwell.ru/library/revie... [orwell.ru]

            The early Bolsheviks may have been angels or demons, according as one chooses to regard them, but at any rate they were not sensible men. They were not introducing a Wellsian Utopia but a Rule of the Saints, which like the English Rule of the Saints, was a military despotism enlivened by witchcraft trials. The same misconception reappears in an inverted form in Wells's attitude to the Nazis. Hitler is all the war-lords and witch-doctors in history rolled into one. Therefore, argues Wells, he is an absurdity, a ghost from the past, a creature doomed to disappear almost immediately. But unfortunately the equation of science with common sense does not really hold good. The aeroplane, which was looked forward to as a civilising influence but in practice has hardly been used except for dropping bombs, is the symbol of that fact. Modern Germany is far more scientific than England, and far more barbarous. Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany. The order, the planning, the State encouragement of science, the steel, the concrete, the aeroplanes, are all there, but all in the service of ideas appropriate to the Stone Age.

            I.e. technological advancement doesn't necessarily make a society less barbaric - the Nazis and Commies used then modern technology to exterminate groups their leaders h

          • Not true at all. If thier physiology is similar enough to ours, I'd expect a very warm welcome. Very warm indeed, with some extra salt and spices and perhaps a tanker or two of BBQ sauce, though purists say good human tastes best on its own.
          • With space being 13bln years old, and us being 11 light years away, and humanity being maybe 200 years into industrial revolution (and at most 300 years from being able to send something there), what, in your opinion, is the chance they have developed just enough to be able to detect us but not enough to have blown past Earth completely ignoring its life as too primitive to be of any interest?

            Pick a ~500 year long window they'd need to get from beginnings of ability to listen in to space waves, until being

            • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

              You could argue that life on earth was 'primitive' (e.g. the literal meaning of the word, being similar to ancestors) up until maybe 600 million years ago or so. The explosion of multicellular life after the Cambrian resulted in life that is definitely not primitive.

              Any advanced civilisation worth its salt would be extremely interested in Earth's biosphere.

              My own opinion is that if advanced civilisations are up there, they are very far away indeed. Probably not even in our galaxy. And maybe we should be tha

              • Personally, I believe even observable universe is too small. There are some elements of abiogenesis that are ludicrously improbable - compound probabilistic properties (like nucleotides arranging themselves into chains that make sense) have this nasty habit of rapidly exploding into numbers much higher than "iterative" stuff like the count of nucleotides in primordial ocean times count of earth-like planets in the observable universe.

                Still, with the universe (entire, not just observable) being infinite, eve

          • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
            There are no resources on our planet that would not be available much closer to them. Yawn, boring
      • You are assuming that the culture had followed the same technology progression we have.
        Lets assume there is a civilization that is on par with us.
        However there was emphasis 2 hundred years ago, on glass production vs metal. So other then radio communication they may have an optical communication infrastructure. With a massive fiber-optic infrastructure, and laser based transmitters to cross areas where a wired connection may not be practical. They may be just a generation into radio communication, techno

        • And they may have had radio for 500 years and radio is used primarily for children to do simple astronomy projects. You don't know, you can only guess at what is on the other end. But what is certain is you will never get a response if you never send a message.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Too far.

      A billion miles is only around 1,5 light hours. About the distance between the Sun and Saturn.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @08:35AM (#55561573)

      I would go on a limb and say it is 65 trillion miles away.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

      A billion miles? It's 6.466e+13 miles. A lot more than a fucking billion. Saturn is roughly a billion miles from the sun.

      Every extrasolar planet ever seen is 'too far' you mong. Distance is fucking relative.

    • You mean, like, somewhere around Saturn, which we've sent four probes to so far, one of which actually landed on Titan?

  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @02:08AM (#55560369)
    We might reach this new world in just 200,000 years, great!
    • We might reach this new world in just 200,000 years, great!

      Right now, the current President of the USA is talking about building a wall to keep folks out.

      I'm thinking, that the next candidate for the President of the USA, Mark Zuckerburg, has plans to build Wormholes.

      This one would be just around the corner.

      So we could stop by there for a Panzarotti and a Cheesteak for lunch.

    • Our best tech - with the theoretical worked out and needing only the relatively minor engineering effort to assemble it - could hit 0.5c and get us there in a 220 years. If we allow for some credible and fairly certain tech improvement, we can double the speed and halve that time. In both cases, adding 11 years for a signal to get back to Earth.

      However, I'm of the opinion that anything we can't reach within the working lifetime of a human isn't something we're terribly likely to put any effort into reachi

      • A 4-light-years-away planet system is an awesome test bed for interstellar probes, though.

        • >A 4-light-years-away planet system is an awesome test bed for interstellar probes

          We're not ready yet. Despite the success of the Voyager probes, there is a world of difference between throwing a more-or-less dead probe into the void, and building a device that will still be working and able to navigate after decades in interstellar space.

          And multiple delicate instruments would have to be functional, with an onboard computer that is completely autonomous (an 8 year round-trip comms delay means any degre

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
        There's at least one planet and a dust belt around proxima centauri, which is literally the closest star to us. That'd probably be a good initial target. Probably won't happen, because we're a pathetic excuse for an advanced species and are too busy cutting bits of our genitals off.
      • I assume you mean 0.05c and the 220 years is the correct part. Still impressive - can you offer a link, a name, something to start my investigation?

        I know of a few theoretical technologies that might pull it off after a *massive* R&D effort, but nothing offhand that only requires "minor" engineering effort. (even if minor means what, less than 10x the man-hours invested in the technology so far? 100?)

        • Nuclear Pulse Propulsion - the original Orion - can achieve 0.05c. No new technology required, just the will to put a large portion of the economy into moving a lot of mass into space.

          More or less you build a big-ass spaceship (that's a metric big-ass, too!) into orbit, mount an ablative shield on the front and a big pusher plate on the back... and then toss the occasional nuclear bomb out behind you and ride the resulting explosions. It's a very 'blunt instrument' approach to moving at high velocities.

      • However, I'm of the opinion that anything we can't reach within the working lifetime of a human isn't something we're terribly likely to put any effort into reaching.

        Unless we develop some kind of hibernation, which is tricky but by no means impossible.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In 79000 years, Ross 128 will be the closest star to the solar system. That's the most exciting part and somehow not included in the sunmary...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We are building a wall at the edge of the solar system - and we'll make the aliens pay!

  • by wolfheart111 ( 2496796 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @03:37AM (#55560635)
    Invite them to facebook. :)
  • by beanfeast ( 125905 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @04:34AM (#55560787)

    The paper gives the planet's orbital period as 9.9 days. I don't know the maths, but I assume the closer a small body is to a large one the quicker it becomes tidally locked . What impact would tidal locking have on the habitability of the planet?

    • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @04:52AM (#55560845) Homepage Journal

      It will be tidally locked. That doesn't mean it can't support life, though.

      Imagine if earth was tidally locked to the sun. Will there be life? Sure. But maybe not on the dark side, and maybe the area in direct perpetual sunlight will be a hot desert. However near the edges of the terminator should be pretty habitable. Maybe a "ribbon" world.

    • What impact would tidal locking have on the habitability of the planet?

      Good question. To which, nobody knows the answer. Discussions about the question have been tossing from the world of science fiction to atmospheric physics and beyond for decades, with on average neutral results. Nobody knows, still.

  • Ha, Tardigrades eat 6 of those before breakfast.

  • There's no kind of atmosphere.
  • You found us!
  • by StupendousMan ( 69768 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @08:19AM (#55561511) Homepage

    The authors of the paper use measurements of the host star's optical spectrum to infer that it doesn't produce a lot of UV emission, and note that it doesn't have frequent optical flares. That's good news for the habitability of the planet around it, as they point out.

    However, they apparently did not note that Ross 128 is a relatively strong X-ray source, as measurements by the ROSAT X-ray satellite show. A colleague of mine worked out the X-ray luminosity of the host star, and it turns out to be not unlike that of the Sun, or even larger. That means that the X-ray flux striking the planet -- which is very close to this host star -- is likely high enough to remove the atmosphere of the planet. No atmosphere means not so interesting a planet, alas.

  • Seedship. [philome.la]

    There are also native mobile versions of this space exploration game. [boingboing.net]

  • Now I know where to point my ship, time to buy the hull build and install my engines with FTL, and I'm *gone*.

    You can keep Trumpolini & co.

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