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Old April 24th, 2007, 11:41 PM
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Thumbs up Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in our Galaxy!

Major Discovery: New Planet Could Harbor Water and Life



By Ker Than
Staff Writer
posted: 24 April 2007
04:23 pm ET

An Earth-like planet spotted outside our solar system is the first found that could support liquid water and harbor life, scientists announced today.
Liquid water is a key ingredient for life as we know it. The newfound planet is located at the "Goldilocks" distance—not too close and not too far from its star to keep water on its surface from freezing or vaporizing away.
And while astronomers are not yet able to look for signs of biology on the planet, the discovery is a milestone in planet detection and the search for extraterrestrial life, one with the potential to profoundly change our outlook on the universe.
”The goal is to find life on a planet like the Earth around a star like the Sun. This is a step in that direction,” said study leader Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland. “Each time you go one step forward you are very happy.”
The new planet is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive. The new “super-Earth” is called Gliese 581 C, after its star, Gliese 581, a diminutive red dwarf star located 20.5 light-years away that is about one-third as massive as the Sun.
Smallest to date
Gliese 581 C is the smallest extrasolar planet, or “exoplanet,” discovered to date. It is located about 15 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun; one year on the planet is equal to 13 Earth days. Because red dwarfs, also known as M dwarfs, are about 50 times dimmer than the Sun and much cooler, their planets can orbit much closer to them while still remaining within their habitable zones, the spherical region around a star within which a planet’s temperature can sustain liquid water on its surface.
Because it lies within its star’s habitable zone and is relatively close to Earth, Gliese 581 C could be a very important target for future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life, said study team member Xavier Delfosse of Grenoble University in France.
“On the treasure map of the universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X,” Delfosse said.
Two other planets are known to inhabit the red dwarf system. One is a 15 Earth-mass “hot-Jupiter” gas planet discovered by the same team two years ago, which orbits even closer to its star than does Gliese 581 C. Another is an 8 Earth-mass planet discovered at the same time as Gliese 581 C, but which lies outside its star’s habitable zone.
Possible waterworld
Computer models predict Gliese 581 C is either a rocky planet like Earth or a waterworld covered entirely by oceans.
“We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius [32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit], and water would thus be liquid,” Udry said.
The scientists discovered the new world using the HARP instrument on the European Southern Observatory 3.6 meter telescope in La Sille, Chile. They employed the so-called radial velocity, or “wobble,” technique, in which the size and mass of a planet are determined based on small perturbations it induces in its parent star’s orbit via gravity.
Udry said there was a fair amount of time between the calculation of Gliese 581 C’s size and the realization it was within its star’s habitable zone. “That came at the end,” Udry said.
When it did hit him, Udry knew he would be spending time fielding phone calls from the media. “You right away think about the journalists who will like it very much,” he told SPACE.com.
More to come
David Charbonneau, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) who was not involved in the study, said the new finding is an “absolutely fantastic discovery.”
“It means there probably are many more such planets out there,” Charbonneau said in a telephone interview. Whether Gliese 581 C harbors life is still unknown, but “it satisfies for the first time a key requirement.”
Charbonneau also praised the team’s technical skills. “The wobble induced on the star by each of these planets is really tiny—it’s just a few meters a second. That means their measurement precision is exquisite,” he said.
David Latham, another astronomer at Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, echoed other scientists’ praise of the discovery but said the next step is to find a similar world where the orbit of the habitable planet carries it between Earth and its parent star. This will allow scientists to observe it using the transit technique, whereby the small dimming starlight caused by the planet’s passage across the face of its sun can be used to calculate its size.
Only then can scientists determine for certain whether the world is rocky or covered by water, Latham said.
Alan Boss, a planetary theorist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said the new planet’s potential for liquid water made it “fascinating." Gliese 581 C “is the closest planet to another Earth that has been found to date. I hope the SETI folks are listening,” Boss said.
Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI institute, said the Gliese 581 system has in fact been looked at twice before for signs of intelligent life. The first time was in 1995 using the Parks Radio Telescope in Australia; the second time occured in 1997 using the Greenbank Radio Telescope in West Virgina. Both times revealed nothing.
“It has been looked at twice, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at it again,” Shostak said. “And indeed we should because this is the best candidate the solar planet guys have come up with yet.”
Shostak said he was “jazzed” by the discovery. “This is pointing to something that in the past has only been an assumption, namely that Earth-sized worlds are not rare,” he said. “We know of only two [planets in the habitable zone]. We know this one and we know our own. But two is better than one.”
Shostak said the Gliese 581 system will likely be looked at again over much wider range of the radio spectrum when the new Allen Telescope Array begins operations this summer.
“You could say it’s going to the head of the class,” he said.



Source; Space.com, TOI

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Old April 24th, 2007, 11:48 PM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

Too far ... not in our life time ... technology does not exist to reach it for further exploration.

I do believe in alien life forms visiting us from overseas ... strange looking creatures.
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Old April 24th, 2007, 11:56 PM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

did they use the microlensing technique to spot the planet?
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Old April 24th, 2007, 11:56 PM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

There are techniques to reach near velocity of light... one involves using a huge parachute kind of sail, which is mirrored in side to reflect light and which will travel by radiation pressure by always pointing towards Sun.. ... if you know a little physics, you will know that photon (in light) can also transer momentum and thus cause radiation pressure... the velocity gained in unit time through this is quite slow, meaning the acceleration is very low, but overtime the speed multiplies and can reach near light velocities, which is not possible with conventional rocket propulsion methods...

if we can reach near light velocities, we can reach this planet in few decades.. remember it is just 20.5 light years away
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Old April 24th, 2007, 11:59 PM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JaiSpeaks
did they use the microlensing technique to spot the planet?
Mircorlensing technique is based on using gravity of massive bodies to concentrate light from far away galaxies/stars, so that they become visible. It cannot be used for planets which are too tiny and emit very less light and that too reflected...

Here they used the wobble in parent star caused by its gravitational interaction with its planet to estimate the planets mass and its distance... read the article fully..
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Old April 25th, 2007, 03:38 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2gud
There are techniques to reach near velocity of light... one involves using a huge parachute kind of sail, which is mirrored in side to reflect light and which will travel by radiation pressure by always pointing towards Sun.. ... if you know a little physics, you will know that photon (in light) can also transer momentum and thus cause radiation pressure... the velocity gained in unit time through this is quite slow, meaning the acceleration is very low, but overtime the speed multiplies and can reach near light velocities, which is not possible with conventional rocket propulsion methods...

if we can reach near light velocities, we can reach this planet in few decades.. remember it is just 20.5 light years away
Yes, but before that solar sail is likely to be destroyed by space debris. Also, try calculating the area of the solar sail and how far from sun you need to be to get any meaningful radiation pressure.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 07:56 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in our Galaxy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhurandhar
Yes, but before that solar sail is likely to be destroyed by space debris. Also, try calculating the area of the solar sail and how far from sun you need to be to get any meaningful radiation pressure.
Space debris may not be a problem if the solar sail route is chosen properly. The most apparent thing about the Universe is not its numerous galaxies and stars, but voids of nothingness of unimaginable dimensions in between and even within the galaxies. So there is always a desolate route to chose . Also note that the solar sail will still need a rocket propulsion system to steer its direction.

But I also wonder gaining a velocity like 0.5C may be possible, but how to break it when we reach the destination
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:17 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in our Galaxy!

Everything seems feasible when you are on a couch
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:24 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in our Galaxy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dhurandhar
Everything seems feasible when you are on a couch
Everything is possible once you get out of the couch
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:38 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

Can't they find something closer to earth? This planet seems too far away!
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:46 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

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Originally Posted by HarHarMahaDev
Can't they find something closer to earth? This planet seems too far away!
Yeah ,it is too far.
Let us burn the effigies.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:47 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

A few years back scientists were estimating that in next 25 years,they shall be able to find the life on some other system of planets.Looks like that time has come very near now!!
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Old April 25th, 2007, 09:32 AM
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More interesting facts about this new "Earth like" planet from CNN:

Scientists find most Earth-like planet yet


WASHINGTON (AP) -- European astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our solar system, and here's what it might be like to live there:
The "sun" wouldn't burn brightly. It would hang close, large and red in the sky, glowing faintly like a charcoal ember. And it probably would never set if you lived on the sunny side of the planet.
You could have a birthday party every 13 days because that's how fast this new planet circles its sun-like star. But watch the cake -- you'd weigh a whole lot more than you do on Earth.
You might be able to keep your current wardrobe. The temperature in this alien setting will likely be a lot like Earth's -- not too hot, not too cold.
And that "just right" temperature is one key reason astronomers think this planet could conceivably house life outside our solar system. It's also as close to Earth-sized as telescopes have ever spotted. Both elements make it the first potentially habitable planet besides Earth or Mars.
Astronomers who announced the discovery of the new planet Tuesday say this puts them closer to answering the cosmic question: Are we alone?
"It's a significant step on the way to finding possible life in the universe," said University of Geneva astronomer Michel Mayor, one of 11 European scientists on the team that found the new body. "It's a nice discovery. We still have a lot of questions."
There's still a lot that is unknown about the new planet, which could be deemed inhospitable to life once more is learned about it. But as galaxies go, it's practically a neighbor. At only 120 trillion miles away, the red dwarf star that this planet circles is one of the 100 closest to Earth.
The results of the discovery have not been published but have been submitted to the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Alan Boss, who works at the Carnegie Institution of Washington where a U.S. team of astronomers competed in the hunt for an Earth-like planet, called it "a major milestone in this business."
The planet was discovered by the European Southern Observatory's telescope in La Silla, Chile, which has a special instrument that splits light to find wobbles in different wavelengths. Those wobbles can reveal the existence of other worlds.
What they revealed is a planet circling the red dwarf star, Gliese 581. Red dwarfs are low-energy, tiny stars that give off dim red light and last longer than stars like our sun. Until a few years ago, astronomers didn't consider these stars as possible hosts of planets that might sustain life.
The discovery of the new planet, named 581 c, is sure to fuel studies of planets circling similar dim stars. About 80 percent of the stars near Earth are red dwarfs.
The new planet is about five times heavier than Earth, and gravity there would be 1.6 times as strong as Earth's. Its discoverers aren't certain if it is rocky like Earth or if its a frozen ice ball with liquid water on the surface. If it is rocky like Earth, which is what the prevailing theory proposes, it has a diameter about 11/2 times bigger than our planet. If it is an iceball, as Mayor suggests, it would be even bigger.
Based on theory, 581 c should have an atmosphere, but what's in that atmosphere is still a mystery and if it's too thick that could make the planet's surface temperature too hot, Mayor said.
However, the research team believes the average temperature to be somewhere between 32 and 104 degrees and that set off celebrations among astronomers.
Until now, all 220 planets astronomers have found outside our solar system have had the "Goldilocks problem." They've been too hot, too cold or just plain too big and gaseous, like uninhabitable Jupiter.
The new planet seems just right -- or at least that's what scientists think.
"This could be very important," said NASA astrobiology expert Chris McKay, who was not part of the discovery team. "It doesn't mean there is life, but it means it's an Earth-like planet in terms of potential habitability."
Eventually astronomers will rack up discoveries of dozens, maybe even hundreds of planets considered habitable, the astronomers said. But this one -- simply called "c" by its discoverers when they talk among themselves -- will go down in cosmic history as No. 1.
Besides having the right temperature, the new planet is probably full of liquid water, hypothesizes Stephane Udry, the discovery team's lead author and another Geneva astronomer. But that is based on theory about how planets form, not on any evidence, he said.
"Liquid water is critical to life as we know it," co-author Xavier Delfosse of Grenoble University in France, said in a statement. "Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life. On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X."
Other astronomers cautioned it's too early to tell whether there is water.
"You need more work to say it's got water or it doesn't have water," said retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran, press officer for the American Astronomical Society. "You wouldn't send a crew there assuming that when you get there, they'll have enough water to get back."
The new planet's star system is a mere 20.5 light years away, making Gliese 581 one of the 100 closest stars to Earth. It's so dim, you can't see it without a telescope, but it's somewhere in the constellation Libra, which is low in the southeastern sky during the mid-evening in the Northern Hemisphere.
Even so, Maran noted, "We don't know how to get to those places in a human lifetime."
But, oh, the view, if you could. The planet is 14 times closer to the star it orbits. Udry figures the red dwarf star would hang in the sky at a size 20 times larger than our moon. And it's likely, but still not known, that the planet doesn't rotate, so one side would always be sunlit and the other dark.
Two teams of astronomers, one in Europe and one in the United States, have been racing to be the first to find a planet like 581 c outside the solar system.
The European team looked at 100 different stars using a tool called HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher) to find this one planet, said Xavier Bonfils of the Lisbon Observatory, one of the co-discoverers.
Much of the effort to find Earth-like planets has focused on stars like our sun with the challenge being to find a planet the right distance from the star it orbits. About 90 percent of the time, the European telescope focused its search more on sun-like stars, Udry said.
A few weeks before the European discovery earlier this month, a scientific paper in the journal Astrobiology theorized a few days that red dwarf stars were good candidates.
"Now we have the possibility to find many more," Bonfils said.


Source: CNN
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Old April 25th, 2007, 09:43 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by HarHarMahaDev
Can't they find something closer to earth? This planet seems too far away!
Our Sun is a loner (may be for our own good, otherwise our earth may have been plucked out of orbit by a nearby passing star), and the nearest star Alpha Centauri is 4.5 light years away (not much different to 20.5 light years)

In galactic terms this star is our neighbour...
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Old April 25th, 2007, 10:27 AM
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Re: Major Discovery - New earth like planet discovered in far away Galaxy!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2gud
Our Sun is a loner (may be for our own good, otherwise our earth may have been plucked out of orbit by a nearby passing star), and the nearest star Alpha Centauri is 4.5 light years away (not much different to 20.5 light years)

In galactic terms this star is our neighbour...
I'm not light...so in Harharmahadevic terms...its fcukin far away!!


btw...even light is saying -"20.5 year! Thats fcukin' far away!"
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