Planet found that could potentially sustain life 32 replies

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Dragonelf68

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#1 8 years ago
  • A new planet that's the right size and location for life has been discovered 20 light-years away.
  • The newly discovered world exists in a solar system very similar to our own but much smaller.
  • Current technologies won't allow scientists to study the planet's atmosphere for chemical signs of life.

A new member in a family of planets circling a red dwarf star 20 light-years away has just been found. It's called Gliese 581g, and the 'g' may very well stand for Goldilocks. Gliese 581g is the first world discovered beyond Earth that's the right size and location for life. "Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it," Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, told Discovery News. The discovery caps an 11-year effort to tease out information from instruments on ground-based telescopes that measure minute variations in starlight caused by the gravitational tugs of orbiting planets. Planet G -- the sixth member in Gliese 581's family -- orbits right in the middle of that system's habitable region, where temperatures would be suitable for liquid water to pool on the planet's surface. "This is really the first 'Goldilocks' planet, the first planet that is roughly the right size and just at the right distance to have liquid water on the surface," astronomer Paul Butler, with the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., told reporters during a conference call Wednesday. "Everything we know about life is that it absolutely requires liquid water," he added. "The planet has to be the right distance from the star so it's not too hot, not too cold... and then it has to have surface gravity so that it can hold on to a substantial atmosphere and allow the water to pool." With a mass three times larger than Earth's, the newly discovered world has the muscle to hold atmosphere. Plus, it has the gift of time. Not only is its parent star especially long-lived, the planet is tidally locked to its sun -- similar to how the moon keeps the same side pointed at Earth -- so that half the world is in perpetual light and the other half in permanent darkness. As a result, temperatures are extremely stable and diverse. "This planet doesn't have days and nights. Wherever you are on this planet, the sun is in the same position all the time. You have very stable zones where the ecosystem stays the same temperature... basically forever," Vogt said. "If life can evolve, it's going to have billions and billions of years to adapt to the surface." "Given the ubiquity of water, it seems probable that this thing actually has liquid water. On the surface of the Earth, everywhere you have liquid water you have life," Vogt added. The question wouldn't be to defend that there is life at Gliese 581g, says Butler. "The question," he said, "would be to demonstrate that there isn't." Current technologies won't allow scientists to study the planet's atmosphere for chemical signs of life, but astronomers expect many more similar life-friendly planets to be discovered soon. If one or more of those cross the face of their parent star, relative to our line of sight, then it's possible to gather atmospheric data. "This system is not in an orientation such that this planet would ever transit, so unfortunately this is not a case where nature has thrown us a bone," Vogt noted. "That being said, it is so close and we have found this thing so soon that it suggests we will start finding a lot of these things in the future and eventually we will find systems that do transit. This is a harbinger of things to come." The research appears in this week's issue of Astrophysical Journal.

Source

So. What possible implications do you think this could have?


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AlDaja

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5th September 2006

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#2 8 years ago

None...the chances of us ever reaching it are slim to none and have no impact on statuesque planet Earth, other than substantiating what scientists and people with an open mind have always known: We are not alone.




SeinfeldisKindaOk

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#3 8 years ago

Cool to know it might be possible. If humans ever reach it it will be a long long long time after even our bones are dust.




Mr. Pedantic

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8th October 2006

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#4 8 years ago
None...the chances of us ever reaching it are slim to none and have no impact on statuesque planet Earth, other than substantiating what scientists and people with an open mind have always known: We are not alone.

A habitable planet does not entail intelligence on it.




Lindale Forum Mod

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#5 8 years ago

[COLOR=orange]I just wonder, do you think the first venture to this planet would be made by autopilot with the crew in long-term stasis, or by a generational ship? In any case, it would be nice to have such a change of scenery.[/COLOR]


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Serio VIP Member

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#6 8 years ago

AlDaja;5402298None...the chances of us ever reaching it are slim to none and have no impact on statuesque planet Earth, other than substantiating what scientists and people with an open mind have always known: We are not alone.[/QUOTE] Way to believe in progress. It might not be possible today, but who's to say it wont be possible in 30 or 40 years? Let alone 100 years? Our understanding of the universe is constantly changing, and someday we might discover a means of travelling across large regions of space.

[QUOTE=Mr. Pedantic;5402352]A habitable planet does not entail intelligence on it.

Earth is indisputable evidence of that.




Showd0wN

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#7 8 years ago

Just for all of those that care to read something other than a summary, it was quite easy to track down the pre-print of the paper on this: here (pdf).

I haven't had a chance to read it, probably another task for a lunch break.




G.R.A.E.M.E. VIP Member

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#8 8 years ago
Lindale;5402374[COLOR=orange]I just wonder, do you think the first venture to this planet would be made by autopilot with the crew in long-term stasis, or by a generational ship? In any case, it would be nice to have such a change of scenery.[/COLOR][/QUOTE] Personally, I'd think the first attempt at doing so would be done by an automated pilot. It would be too risky to give it a first attempt with a real crew.
Serio;5402384It might not be possible today, but who's to say it wont be possible in 30 or 40 years? Let alone 100 years? Our understanding of the universe is constantly changing, and someday we might discover a means of travelling across large regions of space.

Indeed, very much so. The technology has improved extremely much over the past few decades. Who's to say it won't advance even more soon, and perhaps even quicker than before, as well? [QUOTE=necrosect;5402392]Just for all of those that care to read something other than a summary, it was quite easy to track down the pre-print of the paper on this: here (pdf).

I haven't had a chance to read it, probably another task for a lunch break.

Thanks for the *.PDF. Checking it once home as well.


Formerly known as Graeme and Arld.



Showd0wN

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#9 8 years ago

Ok, well I was slightly bored so I had a glance over it:

The estimated equilibrium temperature of GJ 581g is 228K, placing it squarely in the middle of the habitable zone

228 kelvin = -45.15 degrees

That a system harboring a potentially habitable planet has been found this nearby, and this soon in the relatively early history of precision RV surveys, indicates that η⊕
distance of 6.27 pc

(note this is to the star GJ 581) 6.27 Parsecs = 20.4504594 light years

An interesting plot from the paper:

Spoiler: Show
mh4pe.png

This is the "top view" of the planetary system. The blue, green and red lines are Earth, Venus and Mercury for comparison. GJ 581g has a ~37-day period, is at least 3.1 times the mass of the earth (with a maxium of 4.5), and orbits at ~0.15 times the distance from its star as we do from the sun. It looks to be about 1.3-1.5 times the physical size of earth (if mainly MgSiO_3, like earth) or 1.7-2.0 the size if water/ice. This indicates gravity of about 1.1-1.7g.

A pretty good summary can be found here




NiteStryker

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#10 8 years ago

20 light years is close in galactic terms, but still too far for humanity for the next several thousand years.