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Histry Nerd
04-25-2007, 05:37 AM
I thought you geeks--er, guys--might like this. (http://www.comcast.net/news/index.jsp?cat=GENERAL&fn=/2007/04/24/645636.html) It's on the Comcast web site, so I'm not sure how long the link will last.

We've suspected they were out there for a long time. Now, we've detected one.

HN

Judg
04-25-2007, 08:06 AM
M-class! :partyguy:

Saw it on the news tonight too.

Ordinary_Guy
04-26-2007, 12:17 AM
For those that haven't heard the basics (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070424_hab_exoplanet.html):

Major Discovery: New Planet Could Harbor Water and Life

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 (http://www.space.com/php/multimedia/imagedisplay/img_display.php?pic=070424_gliese581c_02.jpg&cap=Artist%27s+impression+of+the+planetary+system+ around+the+red+dwarf+Gliese+581.+Using+the+instrum ent+HARPS+on+the+ESO+3.6-m+telescope%2C+astronomers+have+uncov) 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 (http://www.space.com/php/multimedia/imagedisplay/img_display.php?pic=070424_gliese581_02.jpg&cap=The+star+Gliese+581%2C+located+20.5+light+year s+away+in+the+constellation+Libra.+Credit%3A+Digit al+Sky+Survey), a diminutive red dwarf star located 20.5 light-years away that is about one-third as massive as the Sun...
The article goes on and it's worth a read.

There are a couple things worth noting. First, while it's in the magic zone, it's also orbiting a red dwarf – so the year only lasts about 13 days. Also, the surface gravity is more than double our own (22 m/s/s vs. 9.8 m/s/s) – though that doesn't, by any means, preclude life (though it would make colonization ...um... problematic).

blacbird
04-26-2007, 12:52 AM
For those that haven't heard the basics (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070424_hab_exoplanet.html):

The article goes on and it's worth a read.

There are a couple things worth noting. First, while it's in the magic zone, it's also orbiting a red dwarf – so the year only lasts about 13 days. Also, the surface gravity is more than double our own (22 m/s/s vs. 9.8 m/s/s) – though that doesn't, by any means, preclude life (though it would make colonization ...um... problematic).

We'd just need to send up some of those guys who compete in World's Strongest Man contests.

The key ingredient to the story really is the temperature regime, in which water could exist in the liquid state. Which means, almost certainly, that the place does have liquid water, as H2O is one of the most common compounds in the universe. Which implies a strong possibility for the development of some form of organic life-chemistry, as long as enough time has passed with this planet in its stable orbit within the liquid-water temp zone.

Now, the next trick would be to find some way of detecting the chemical signature of the atmosphere. If there's free molecular oxygen, or possibly even ozone, present, it would be an unmistakable signature of biological processes.

caw

ChunkyC
04-26-2007, 01:09 AM
For those that haven't heard the basics (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070424_hab_exoplanet.html):

The article goes on and it's worth a read.

There are a couple things worth noting. First, while it's in the magic zone, it's also orbiting a red dwarf – so the year only lasts about 13 days. Also, the surface gravity is more than double our own (22 m/s/s vs. 9.8 m/s/s) – though that doesn't, by any means, preclude life (though it would make colonization ...um... problematic).
I can't help wondering how many generations it would take to adapt to a 2 gee environment. One of the biggest problems would be avoiding native predators. ;) Even an incredibly fit and strong human would be moving pretty darn slowly under 2 gees. Imagine the power of a critter that evolved there? Yikes!

Of course, this assumes a breathable atmosphere, sufficiently radiation-free on the surface, yadda-yadda. But it's fun to speculate. :)