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Kepler Investigator Says 'Galaxy Is Rich In Earth-Like Planets'

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the member-of-a-larger-club dept.

Space 206

astroengine writes "In a recent presentation, Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov unexpectedly announced news that the Kepler Space Telescope has discovered scores of candidate Earth-like exoplanets. Not waiting for the official NASA press release to announce the discovery, Sasselov went into some detail at the TEDGlobal talk in Oxford, UK earlier this month. This surprise announcement comes hot on the heels of controversy that erupted last month when the Kepler team said they were withholding data on 400 exoplanet candidates until February 2011. In light of this, Sasselov's unofficial announcement has already caused a stir. Keith Cowing, of NASAWatch.com, has commented on this surprise turn of events, saying it is really annoying 'that the Kepler folks were complaining about releasing information since they wanted more time to analyze it before making any announcements. And then the project's Co-I goes off and spills the beans before an exclusive audience — offshore. We only find out about it when the video gets quietly posted weeks later.' Although Sasselov could have handled the announcement better (and waited until NASA made the official announcement), this has the potential to be one of the biggest astronomical discoveries of our time — so long as these Earth-like 'candidates' are confirmed by further study."

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brought to you by the letter.. (5, Funny)

SpinningCone (1278698) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042798)

can we just start calling them 'M' Class ?

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33043284)

Since they've not confirmed they're Earth like, can we call them "erm-class"?

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (5, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043404)

The Star Trek classification system would indeed be far better than the whole "What's a planet" argument definitions we've had (which has been hard enough with just our solar system), and things like Dwarf planets etc. We have classes for stars, so why not planets...

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (1)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043736)

I'm not sure I like the Dwarf planet designation either, I'd suspect that if they wanted to classify something as being smaller than a dwarf but still a planet they'd call it a hobbit planet.

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (2, Interesting)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043840)

I don't like "Dwarf Planet" either... what's wrong with "Planetoid"?

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045470)

Yeah, what is wrong with it? It's used just fine... (just for something different than dwarf planets)

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (2, Funny)

Ipeunipig (934414) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045056)

They prefer to be called Little Planets.

'Dwarf' makes them feel belittled amongst their peers.

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (3, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045422)

But we do have it, that's the point. And "planet" simply means one type of planetary bodies already.

Dward planet, terrestrial planet, gas giant (among them distinction between neptunes/jupiters and hot/cold), sub-brown dwarf; iron planet, chthonian planet, carbon planet, ocean planet, trojan planet, rogue planet...there's plenty of different classes.

Now you'd want to replace descriptive and flexible monikers with rigid symbol classifications?
OK, so perhaps, maybe, you're used to Star Trek fantasy setting, which also nicely covers most of the latin alphabet...but here, let me show you how it would look in practice:

Class (put in one symbol from this alphabet [wikipedia.org] ,; /. & unicode...) Planet
Class (put several, if some body is like that) Planet

And you know, the best would be to just settle with what a planet was for Greeks - that includes the Moon and the Sun... - but with Star Trek classification system.

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045594)

Unfortunately the categorisation isn't quite so straightforward - we've got gas giant being a subset of planet for example, but "dwarf planet" is not a subset of "planet" (aside from being misleading from the name, it also seems unclear why say Mercury and Jupiter are subsets of one thing, distinct to Pluto being something else).

I'm not saying the current system is bad - but I disagree it's analogous to a "class" system merely with different labels.

Re:brought to you by the letter.. (2, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045778)

Might not be a bad idea, but we're scarcely ready to tackle the task. We're starting with a sample-size of 9, (or is that 8?) with direct, personal, and extensive observation of only 1, fairly extensive robot observation of 1 more, somewhat less robot observation of 2 more, and some robot and telescopic observation of the rest. Then we get into those pesky "moons", some of which might well be considered "planets" if they orbited the sun instead of some planet. (Think Pandora, for a fictional extreme example, but Ganymede, Titan, and Callisto aren't that far behind.)

Past that, our extrasolar observations so far haven't found much, if any, like our own solar system. We've found numerous super-Jovian (The easiest kind to detect.) worlds, some of them in decidedly non-Jovian orbits. I don't think we're truly ready to do any sort of planetary classification yet, unless we left it so diffuse at to not be useful - perhaps with a few more decades of extrasolar observations and technological advancements in the same... In the meantime, it seems kind of like doing a taxonomy of arthropods based on aquatic observations of shrimp, lobsters, prawns, and the like.

Small slip (4, Insightful)

asukasoryu (1804858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042838)

Seems like the only info released was a distribution of planet size. Without planet composition, I would describe these as Earth-size, not Earth-like. It's a little early to get excited.

Kepler (3, Insightful)

SpeedyGonz (771424) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043052)

I agree. Water presence? Temperature within habitable range? At least a primordial atmosphere? Not sure if Kepler is the right tool to collect that kind of data, but to call them "earth like" seems premature. Granted, if the size approaches that of earth chances are they're rocky, solid planets, but that's it.

Re:Kepler (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044390)

It was my impression that when researchers called something "earth like" they were referring to a relatively small planet with a rocky core. By that definition both Venus and Mars are Earth-like even if, on the whole they are considerably different than Earth.

Re:Small slip (5, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043068)

You can be sure that the mainstream media will fail to make the distinction between "Earth-size" and the more vaguely-defined (but more comprehensive sounding) "Earth-like". These planets are "Earth-like" in the same sense that noxious, caustic, stifling, lung-crushing Venus is "Earth-like"... if that.

Re:Small slip (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043394)

Venus has a thriving environment and many intelligent species. Guess you never read John Carter goes to Venus.

Re:Small slip (0)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043230)

On the other hand, I think it is a fairly reasonable guess that a planet the size of Earth is going to be more or less Earth-like. I haven't done the calculations, but I think a gas-planet has to be heavier to stay together, so it would have to be rock or ice. To my mind, a blob of water in the habitable zone of a star would count as Earth-like enough for most purposes.

Re:Small slip (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33043710)

There are 2 other planets in OUR solar system that are 'earth like'. Or at least close enough. Yet they either have too much of the wrong kind of atmosphere or too little. Earth really does have an interesting balance of chemicals and distance from the sun that give us our 'earth like' qualities. For example on a planet where oxygen is low it would be hard to form the greenhouse gases to heat up the surface. Are there other planets out there that are like ours? Statistically there has to be. However, it has already been proven long ago that earth SIZED planets are a dime a dozen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation [wikipedia.org]

Unfortunately with Drakes equation we have a sample of 1. The formula idea will probably hold up but we do not have proper numbers to put into it. The sort of thing this satellite is doing helps us fill in 1 of the numbers a bit better in relation to ET's. This dude getting excited about finding planets is like saying their is oil in the gulf of mexico. We KNOW it is there. It is just a matter of finding it.

Also it is a matter of how you define 'earth like'. If you define it as 'a human could live there with no need of special equipment'. That range of planets is probably fairly small. If you define it as 'a planet x % of the distance away from a sun and has y gravity'. Then you may find a much larger number of planets.

Re:Small slip (1)

jvillain (546827) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045324)

Every one keeps skipping the size of the star that the planet orbits as well as the distance from that star.

Re:Small slip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33043262)

Compared most of the exoplanets discovered up to now, these *are* earth-like.

Re:Small slip (2, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043276)

>> I would describe these as Earth-size, not Earth-like.

Yeah seriously, and even if they have life on any of these "Earth-like" planets, how many have advanced to our level of sophistication? Without pro-wrestling, advanced snack-cake technology, and those "one quick tip to lose weight" ads on the internet, they have most definitely not achieved "Earth-like" status.

Re:Small OVERSIGHT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33043416)

"In a recent presentation, Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov preempted the official announcement that the exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope has discovered about 140 candidate worlds orbiting other stars that are "like Earth."

The operative word being 'candidate', which italicized in the TFA.

Re:Small OVERSIGHT (1)

asukasoryu (1804858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043572)

Title of TFA: Kepler Scientist: 'Galaxy is Rich in Earth-Like Planets' It did not say "Galaxy rich in candidates for Earth-like planets" or the more realistic "Scientists discover Earth-size planets." You can't focus on the parts of TFA that are correct and ignore the parts that are sensationalized. Too often writers take good information and add in their own nonsense. There's a difference between saying "journalist is a candidate for being an asshat" and "journalist is a proven asshat."

Re:Small slip (1)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044126)

Exactly. Venus is almost exactly earth's size to within a thousand miles. It is certainly not "earthlike" - not unless you have pools of molten lead in your back yard.

Re:Small slip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33045364)

not unless you have pools of molten lead in your back yard

How did you know I live in China?

Re:Small slip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33044142)

It is thought that planets form through accretion, meaning that bits of dust stick together. Dust, not gas. So most planets form from solid materials and have rocky cores. In the right conditions they attract an atmosphere and can become gas giants, but at their heart they have rock. So this is not just a planet-size announcement, since you can be sure that a small planet will be a rocky planet.

Re:Small slip (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044738)

"Dust" is just a gas that has a freezing temperature lower than the ambient temperature.

TEDTalks (-1, Troll)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042846)

Considering the huge amount of interesting topics discussed, if a pre-announcement of Kepler's results is the price it's one I'm glad to pay.

Drake (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042852)

If data shows that the number of planets which could support life like ours is high then another factor must be pushed down, because we aren't getting any visitors, and we aren't getting any communications from other species. My bet is that the vast majority of those planets have run away from having a habitual environment by turning into planets like Venus or Mars. We are lucky that our CO2 is locked up in limestone, not free in the atmosphere.

Gentlemen, prepare your terraforming equipment...

Re:Drake (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042888)

I read before somewhere that any planets with an atmosphere similar to ours would be likely covered in water. I think we're meant to have lost a lot of our water or potential water in the same event that created the moon (ie huge asteroid kicking a whole lot of crap into orbit)? Sorry if that's completely wrong, can't remember the details but hopefully someone more knowledgeable will pipe up.

Only one factor is in question (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042972)

Is interstellar space travel feasable?

If there is no faster then light method of travelling possible, then there are unlikely to be any visitors ever. End of story.

And while 400 planets sounds like a lot, in the milky way it isn't much at all, especially if you consider the short timespan that humans have been capable of even seeing into deep space let alone make their presence known. And there are countless disasters that can wipe out a civilization.

There are aliens out there, in the deep vastness of space and time. Just as somewhere there is a smart intelligent girl that totally digs D&D. To bad she was born 200 years ago.

Re:Only one factor is in question (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043102)

There are aliens out there, in the deep vastness of space and time. Just as somewhere there is a smart intelligent girl that totally digs D&D. To bad she was born 200 years ago.

So she's a vampire, too? Cool.

Re:Only one factor is in question (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043196)

So she's a vampire, too? Cool.

Nah, just a fat goth

Re:Only one factor is in question (1)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044030)

So she's a vampire, too? Cool.

Nah, just a fat goth

As a resident of London's Camden Town, I am not unfamiliar with this type of woman...

Re:Only one factor is in question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33043208)

Just as somewhere there is a smart intelligent girl that totally digs D&D.

I just married a beautiful woman (objectively stunning, not "I love her as she is"), avid D&D player, funny and very smart.

Keep looking, there are more of those (maybe not so beautiful, maybe not so smart but that's just my karma rewarding my awesomeness) looking for the right guy. Just be ready to be the right guy.

Re:Only one factor is in question (1, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043260)

Same guy here (yes, I anonymized both for "too much info" reasons) I forgot one thing.

Hit the fricking gym as often as you train and cultivate your mind. If she offers both, she'll want both,

Re:Only one factor is in question (1)

Ivoch (1819386) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043766)

yes, I anonymized both

Really?

there are no girls on teh intarwebs (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045394)

pics and character stats, or it didn't happen.

Re:Only one factor is in question (1)

solarlux (610904) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044404)

Or, just cultivate your mind and make lots of money...

Re:Only one factor is in question (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045046)

I've found that money is over rated, and most women don't want intelligence in a man. I'm middle class, the woman I was seeing recently had just divorced her rich husband. Meanwhile, my ex-wife left me eight years ago for an unemployed auto mechanic.

Most women like "bad boys" and they all love a sense of humor and a smile. Grow a goatee and leave a stubble on your cheeks, and let your wit show but hide your intelligence. yes, there are gold diggers out there, but you have to realize they're whores; just a tiny bit more respectable than the prostitutes that solicit you in the streets. After all, that's the definition of a prostitute: a woman who trades sex for money, which is what gold diggers are really doing. I have no respect whatever for a gold digging woman.

Re:Only one factor is in question (2, Informative)

yotto (590067) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043720)

And while 400 planets sounds like a lot, in the milky way it isn't much at all, especially if you consider the short timespan that humans have been capable of even seeing into deep space let alone make their presence known. And there are countless disasters that can wipe out a civilization.

It's not 400 planets in the galaxy. It's 400 out of 700 planets they've looked at. That implies 4/7ths of the planets in the galaxy are "Earth sized."

Interestingly, this matches up with what we have in our own Solar System, where 4/8ths of the planets are just so sized. Does Mercury count? Maybe it's 3/8ths here. Dunno. Still close enough for statistics.

Re:Only one factor is in question (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043776)

On top of it, the only mode of interstellar travel which seems feasible, with a technology that's almost certainly within the range of advanced civilization - embryo colonisation - would strongly promote ignoring systems where there is another civilization already; maybe even ignoring those with highly developed biosphere.

And we're shifting pretty quickly to methods of radio communication which look more and more like noise, nvm getting weaker and weaker in regards to transmission power...

Re:Only one factor is in question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33045080)

Faster than light isn't necessary. All you need is a great big power source and relativity. From Wikipedia:

a constant 1 g acceleration would permit humans to travel as far as light has been able to travel since the big bang (some 13.7 billion light years) in one human lifetime.

Time dilation helps out a whole lot. The closer you get to lightspeed, the slower time passes for you.We could, very theoretically, do it right now. We have fission, that's a good enough power source for constant 1 g if you scale it up a shitload. And if an alien civilisation has developed fusion, or something really exotic like rotating black hole power, the only obstacles are resources and a crew willing to leave their home utterly and forever. Even that could be mitigated or bypassed by AI.

Even if the speed of light is unbreakable, all that means is that you have to take thousands of years to reach your destination as seen by a relative stationary observer.

Re:Only one factor is in question (4, Informative)

delt0r (999393) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045708)

If there is no faster then light method of travelling possible, then there are unlikely to be any visitors ever. End of story.

This is quite false. You have left out a entire section of very possible developments.

  • Longevity treatments. Whats 100 years when you live for 1000?
  • "Cryo sleep" or suspended animation. No reason why it can't work.
  • "Generation ships". No reason why a big arse space ship wouldn't be a pleasure to be part of. Even if you don't care about the destination.
  • robotic overloads. You don't need AI here.

Note that nuclear fission fragment rockets can get ~5% C. Antimatter much more... sure we aren't doing it now. But there is no physics stopping it. Unlike FLT.

All we are missing is the desire or need to go in the first place.

Re:Drake (3, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043090)

My bet is that the vast majority of those planets have run away from having a habitual environment by turning into planets like Venus or Mars.

I'm wondering how close to Earth's size a planet has to be to be an "Earth sized" planet. Venus is an Earth sized planet, and as you say, is in no way habitable. Mars isn't that much smaller, but has little atmosphere and no magnetic field; I don't see how life could exist on a planet without a magnetic field to keep stellar radiation out.

There are a whole lot more variables than size to consider.

we aren't getting any visitors

Maybe Doctor Fielgud [slashdot.org] and his colleagues will figure out that a "moon sized double planetoid" can harbor life if it has an iron core, and that oxygen isn't a poison to all species. And maybe the NASA people will start looking at satellites of gas giants around other stars. Meanwhile, that bit of fiction I linked gives a possible explanation as to why nobody's calling. Here's another bit of fiction [baetzler.de] with an alternative suggestion.

Re:Drake (1)

bencollier (1156337) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043314)

The graph in the TED talk says " 2 Re" - so, under twice the radius of Earth?

Re:Drake (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043636)

Magnetic field is in large part about keeping the atmosphere from being blown away by stellar wind, not radiation per se - magnetosphere doesn't stop electromagnetic waves, and as for particle radiation - the atmosphere would stop most of it.

Anyway, it could be that Earht itself is a borderline planet for life [harvard.edu] , just big enough for plate tectonics (something which Venus lacks, and which probably contributed greatly to its conditions); maybe even slightly too small in itself, but was pushed into habitable range by the collision with Theia (the collision that spawned the Moon)

Re:Drake (1)

Narishma (822073) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045022)

Does plate tectonics depend on the size of the planet? I mean there are some moons around Saturn or Jupiter that have plate tectonics but are a lot smaller than Venus.

Re:Drake (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045556)

Well, as far as we can tell now - they don't have plate tectonics (maybe Europa, in a way...); they are geologically active, sure, but not with plate tectonics. And that activity isn't a function of their size, but tidal forces.

Re:Drake (1)

bonehead (6382) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044004)

There are a whole lot more variables than size to consider.

Definitely.

Another one I wonder about is just how necessary a large moon is? Earth is fairly unusual in just how large our moon is compared to the planet it orbits. This gives our oceans strong tides.

Without those strong tides sloshing the water around, would life have formed in still, stagnant pools of water? If it did, would it have spread? Evolved?

Does the Drake equation... (1)

koolfy (1213316) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043460)

...take the prime directive into account ?

(because it should.)

Re:Drake (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043516)

You're missing one important possible reason - while habitable planets and indeed life might be common (hey, there are over a dozen suspect bodies only in our system), the conditions for complex multicellular life and very complex, competitve ecosystems (possibly promoting intelligence at some point) might be not.

How many billion yers before Earth spawned a moderately intelligent species? How many millenia before that species had even rudimentary technical civilization?

Re:Drake (2, Funny)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044020)

My bet is that the vast majority of those planets have run away from having a habitual environment by turning into planets like Venus or Mars.

So you're suggesting that they have an occasional atmosphere? I don't know. Usually, once a planet gives up its atmosphere habit, it doesn't go back.

Re:Drake (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044100)

If data shows that the number of planets which could support life like ours is high then another factor must be pushed down, because we aren't getting any visitors, and we aren't getting any communications from other species...

...that we know of. I know it sounds kind of tinfoil-hatty, but it is not unreasonable to think that if ET's were visiting this planet, they might try to keep themselves hidden, so as not to alarm anyone. I would also think that if they had made contact, say with a government, that government might keep it a secret as well (see sig for more insight). Governments aren't the most forthcoming institutions these days, their military and intelligence operations even less so.

Besides that many people, including military people, have claimed to see things they consider not of this earth. You may not believe them, but it is possible they are right.

Re:Drake (1)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044592)

we aren't getting any visitors, and we aren't getting any communications from other species

How sure are you?

That means (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042882)

That the galaxy is also reach in Berlusconi? I hope the astronomers are definitely wrong.
For the sake of mankind.

Kdawson (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33042896)

I wonder if every extraterrestrial civilization has a kdawson

Irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33042912)

It really doesn't matter when even the nearest one is entirely out of our reach, without even the hope of ever reaching it even with unmanned probes.

Dysfunctional (2, Insightful)

m0s3m8n (1335861) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042920)

Is the Kepler team dysfunctional, or do they just enjoy pissing on one another?

Re:Dysfunctional (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33043228)

You say that as if pissing on each other was bad somehow. :)

Re:Dysfunctional (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043534)

Or the guy's just excited and couldn't help himself. It seems like a perfectly human thing to me.

Re:Dysfunctional (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33043868)

It seems like a perfectly human thing to me.

So is murder.

Re:Dysfunctional (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044158)

It's probably more like many members of their team being really excited. And many observers.

What the Kepler mission is doing, and any possible outcomes, is mighty exciting after all.

Re:Dysfunctional (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044166)

Aren't those two things kinda, you know, the same? I can't imagine a functional team would enjoy pissing in each other's Wheaties.

Re:Dysfunctional (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044752)

In and academic pursuit there are always heated debates and disagreements. The debate process is part of the formulation of ideas. It doesn't work the same way as in the corporate world, where you need to have everyone work as a cog in a machine. Academics always have strong views on certain things. Its probably a case of some of the team being overly excited, some being more reserved. In the end most of them will reach consensus based on data analysis. Its part of progress.

In other news.... (1, Funny)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 4 years ago | (#33042932)

In other news, scientists discover that the universe is full of matter.

Re:In other news.... (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043128)

I thought it was mostly empty space, not even close to full.

Re:In other news.... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043412)

On one hand - "real" vacuum is nowhere to be found. On the other - you are mostly empty space, too; considering the sizes of subatomic particles and "empty" space between them.

We mostly just live in a curious range of size, between quantum and cosmological, that gives a bit nonrepresentive ideas about the universe; it can be easily said to be full of matter.

Re:In other news.... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043754)

Why is this a troll? We've already known that there are a multitude of planets, even earth sized ones. This is really non-news until 1) it is confirmed and 2) they determine whether these are earth sized or earth like.

Oh noes, "offshore"! (-1, Troll)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043014)

Did a guy with responsibility for exploring the entire fucking universe just get all pissy about a (cosmologically) insignificant geographical distance on Earth?

Wow... for a fellow with such a big job, he must have a really minuscule, tiny, pathetic limp little... ego.

How about that? If the Universe is rich... (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043046)

maybe it *does* owe me a living.

Re:How about that? If the Universe is rich... (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044032)

Looking to get reparations for the big bang screwing over your ancient race?

breaking news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33043086)

These Earth class planets don't just exist. Most of them has a functional Stargate on them!!!

Unconfirmed planets (3, Informative)

AC-x (735297) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043164)

Kepler needs 3 transits to confirm a planet, so given that it's only been up there since March 7, 2009 any planet around the same distance as earth will only have had 2 transits max.

It's exciting that there are so many candidates but I guess NASA doesn't want the embarrassment of getting everyone all excited then having to hugely backtrack on the number if some turn out to be something else.

Re:Unconfirmed planets (1)

grimJester (890090) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043476)

Kepler needs 3 transits to confirm a planet, so given that it's only been up there since March 7, 2009 any planet around the same distance as earth will only have had 2 transits max.

The first batch of data that had 400 candidates withheld was for 43 days only. It's quite possible this doesn't include newer data and every single one of these is really close to the star.

Re:Unconfirmed planets (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045654)

No, this is wrong. Where did you learn your orbital mechanics? There's another major factor in the orbit time of satellites: the mass of the star. The more massive the star a planet orbits, the faster its period will be for a given distance.

what a stupid situation (5, Insightful)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043194)

It's really sad that a discussion about the possible detection of Earth-sized planets around other stars is dressed up in "it's our data and we want to publish first" and stuff like that.
Humanity will, one day, pay dearly the fact that scientists are forced to fight for resources...

Anyway, this is interesting news. If computers were considered "the revenge of the nerds", I'm curious what the next few years will be called.

Re:what a stupid situation (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044186)

Well if those same scientists would get nuclear fusion and energy-matter conversion working, then we'd have unlimited resources and they wouldn't have to fight over them anymore. So really, it's their own fault for being lazy.

Re:what a stupid situation (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044780)

Why not become a scientist and research that if its so important to you. This is a case of the grasshopper wanting to benefit from the ants preparation for winter without helping them prepare.

Re:what a stupid situation (1)

equex (747231) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044864)

Thing is, if everyone had free energy, it would be fucking hard to corner the market. There are probably secret matter-energy converters in existence and they remain secret because "war for resources" and nationalism is a tried and true method of population control.

Re:what a stupid situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33044198)

It is stupid and selfish. Unless I'm mistaken they're using a technique to detect planets that involves a direct occultation of the planet's parent star by the planet as viewed from earth. Such an event can occur a maximum of once a year relative to the detected planet's oribital period around its star (its year), and that 'alien year' time duration could potentially be significantly longer than Earth's year.

So what it would seem to mean is that it could be impossible for any independent observatory instrument to confirm or independently further analyze the data about the detected planet's transit across its star unless they're prepared to wait more than an year, possibly several / many. If the new planet has significant orbital plane precession or is in a complicated orbit due to being in something like a multi-star system, I suppose it is possible that it might not be seen to occult its primary again from earth's viewpoint for quite a long time if that event does not occur once every alien year due to these factors (just as there isn't a lunar eclipse every full moon here on earth and there isn't a solar eclipse monthly due to orbital variations that cause the shadow to miss an alignment that it might have more often if there weren't such variances).

So assuming there were other satellites or observatories that had the capability to in real time confirm the detection and possibly even do even greater breadth of scientific analysis during the observation (due to different / better / more specialized equipment at the other instruments -- say, atmospheric spectroscopy or surface imaging or better size / orbit determination or whatever may be possible now o r in time) they'd simply be given no chance to do these independent analyses for 'years' to come, which is just an unnecessary waste for science and learning and discovery.

At the very least the method of science is all about letting others conduct independent experiments to try to duplicate / confirm your results. Any time an event like a comet / asteroid discovery is made or a GRB / supernova is observed, many independent teams are immediately given the chance to do just that lest they miss the opportunity forever or for a long while or at least miss some good additional / independent data collection. It should be the same here, for the same reasons as explained above.

I'm delighted Kepler is making these kinds of discoveries, but I'm disappointed that what should be totally open in real time in the best interest of science, education, and discovery is being shuttered out of misplaced professional greed for accolades.
If they discover a planet first, great, let them have the primary notoriety for that, naming rights, whatever, and even have some agreement about primacy of discovery credits if they share the data with other observers, but they SHOULD share the data in as close to real time as technically possible.

Beyond the ethical / scientific justifications for doing so, it is disconcerting to have government funded (directly and indirectly) science projects that DON'T have a policy of public openness of their findings at every step. There's just no good justification for secrecy and delay here.

Re:what a stupid situation (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044552)

Anyway, this is interesting news. If computers were considered "the revenge of the nerds", I'm curious what the next few years will be called.

2011, 2012, and 2013.

You're welcome.

Re:what a stupid situation (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044700)

Publishing by press release is a great advantage in the short term, and most scientists won't be missing that lost integrity till later (if at all). These guys don't have to fight for resources -- they choose to. It's a disgrace.

Re:what a stupid situation (1)

bonehead (6382) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045420)

Humanity will, one day, pay dearly the fact that scientists are forced to fight for resources...

Quite the opposite. Given that we have finite resources, the competition amongst scientific groups helps to assure, at least to some degree, that those resources are deployed in the most productive manner.

"Earth Like" (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043484)

By "Earth" like they mean rocky, as opposed to gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn.
In this solar system we have Venus - very similar in size to earth and made of rock. However it in no way could be described as habitable by even the toughest forms of life found here.

Theres an article in this months SciAm,(by the same guys, referring to 'super-earths' Rocky planets twice the size of earth or more. They could have life if they were at the right distance from their star, but so far we have only been able to detect close in planets (by their effect on the star. Its possible with these new instruments that we could detect planets transiting their star, but that of course depends on us being in the same plane as the orbit of the planet

Re:"Earth Like" (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043858)

In this solar system we have Venus - very similar in size to earth and made of rock. However it in no way could be described as habitable by even the toughest forms of life found here.

Actually, it could - and it is on the list of potential candidates for life.

There is a level in the atmosphere where the conditions are very Earth-like.

Power law...? (1)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043594)

It looks like the distribution follows a power law. I'm not sure if that's an artifact of the numbers chosen but it would be cool if it were true.

The Problem I Have With This... (1)

mlauzon (818714) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043596)

Is that scientists assume that only 'earth-like' planets can support life, that they all have to be the same distance from Sol as Earth is; and that's just wrong. Life can most likely develop in all types of environments, so maybe there is life on giant planets, etc. Until we actually get out there and see, we shouldn't be assuming stuff!

Re:The Problem I Have With This... (1)

Narishma (822073) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045176)

They aren't assuming any such thing. They are only looking for life as we know it on Earth, that's why they only look for Earth-like planets. You can't look for other types of life because you wouldn't know where to start or what to look for anyway.

Avatar (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043632)

And how long before we're mining the crap out of these planets to get our un-obtainium? BTW: The one thing that bothered me most in Avatar was that, while they mentioned it takes 6-years to get to Pandora, they never mention how long it took to discover Pandora. That's a lot of Galaxy to look at.

My prediction is that somehow, we're going to discover, within the next 20 years, something that can be confirmed as "earth-like" in that it appears to have atmosphere and water (from what we can see, being tens of light-years away). At that point, there will be a multi-national effort to reach this planet, which will bankrupt the world because the cost of such an expedition will be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars.

And then, when we get there, we'll find out that it's not *exactly* "earth-like". There will be something different enough that we can't live there, or terraform, or do anything with it. The entire trip will be a huge waste of resources.

And then for the next 300 years because of this failure, we will stop looking up at the sky and wondering.

And then *they* will show up to harvest us.....

Re:Avatar (1)

Titan1080 (1328519) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043732)

I thought I read somewhere that Pandora was in the Centauri system. So all we did was travel to our nearest neighbor and BAM, intelligent life...

Re:Avatar (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043950)

You must qualify it a bit better - there's no such thing as "Centauri system" - " ...Centauri" is a moniker of stars in the constellation of Centaurus; only few of them quite close. Or probably the closest, as is the case with Proxima Centauri.

Re:Avatar (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044094)

Don't count on any multi-national rush to visit some random Earth-like planet in our relative stellar neighbourhood; most of them will be way beyond reach.

We will start with absolutely closest stars first, really nvm if there seems to be a habitable planet or not. "And then for the next 300 years" (or so) the small unmanned probe will be en route before even getting there (and hopefully done in a way similar to this concept [wikipedia.org] , even if with less advanced tech, to be somewhat capable of mass production & launching, instead of a one-shot effort)

Re:Avatar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33044352)

I think you should rethink your prediction and not make an ass of yourself by posting such foolishness in a public forum.

Related Literature from 1868 (1)

winelfredpasamba (1865250) | more than 4 years ago | (#33043912)

all from the same author:

"The worlds unfallen and the heavenly angels had watched with intense interest as the conflict drew to its close."
Desire of Ages (1868) page 694 (http://www.whiteestate.org/books/da/da74.html) [whiteestate.org]

"Cherubim and seraphim, and the unnumbered hosts of all the unfallen worlds, sang anthems of praise to God and the Lamb when this triumph was assured."
Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings (1896) page 105 (http://www.ellenwhite.info/books/bk-mb-06.htm) [ellenwhite.info]

"With unutterable delight the children of earth enter into the joy and the wisdom of unfallen beings."
The Great Controversy (1911) page 678 (http://www.google.com/search?q=With+unutterable+delight+the+children+of+earth+enter+into+the+joy+and+the+wisdom+of+unfallen+beings) [google.com] etc...

I'd love to believe it... (1)

ChaoticCoyote (195677) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044358)

I'd love to believe it, but I don't. Yes, there may be vast numbers of solar systems containing rocky planets in approximately the right orbits. But "habitable?" That's a big stretch. I suspect what we'll find is more like Niven's "Known Space" series, where the "habitable" planets out there are weird, marginal, and possibly inhabited by hostile things.

Six reasons for silence (1)

OliverSparrow (1719338) | more than 4 years ago | (#33044822)

0: We are wrong about the life: it does take the finger of a deity.

1: They have better communications media that we cannot access.

2: It's dangerous out there: croaking frogs attract snakes.

3: We are in a game park: they communicate with us only when we have something to offer.

4: All technological civilisations always try one key experiment that sinks the ship: e.g. massive self-gravitating Bose-Einstein condensate >> black hole >> zip.

5: Singularity: biochemical 2 eV life is just too limiting and civilisations move on when they can. "On" may be into simulations, or into media that e don't know about.

Notes:

On 3 - self-propagating von Neumann machines can (theoretically) cover the galaxy in a few million years. Dust like seeds, working up to "plants" in the Oort, spraying their kind onwards in an endless chain. If symbol-using life is found, infest its nervous system and nroadcast on ege dark matter wavebands (? :) ) you you and I are either databased - immortality of a sort - or appearing on Arcturan TV.

On 4: Add themes to taste; or just accept that a critical mass of capability means that someone, somewhere always does it on purpose. 60+% of traffic head on collisions are "taking the bastards with me."

On 5: If we can understand congition as a physical process then we can emulate it as one. There is probably no difference between the quality of being aware that you have, that I have or that the steak that you had for dinner possessed when it wandered about and mooed. What differs is sensorium, memories, affect/ reflex balances.

What individuates You from Moo is probably a few GB, so the delta from standard human awareness that is You could fit on a DVD. Basic human awareness OS is - let's say - 1 TB, "you" 1-5 GB on top of that. So really not a very difficult task to emulate once you understand the basics; which we do not at all understand now, but which we will in 30-40 years.

Reading out "you" from the wetware is probably not a bit by bit fiddle but 'just' sensing statistically the balance between generic pay offs and balances in your processing characteristics. For example, a tree, as perceived by you now, or recalled later, is represented from a hardwired GL, tweaked to reflect as much detail as is required for the observation. Recalling that 'there were some trees' generates a vague and very geenral set of blobs in one's mind, after all. Memories of a tree or a face are essentially tweaked primitives: from generic face to 'Her' face 'Then' calls up some standard ways in which faces differ and a lot of links to other generics, themselves forming a web of what feel like memories.

So: backups, hacks, file transfers, upgrades, edits. Add better hardware. Massively parallel games for real - science fiction has been there already. Be Your Own Universal Emperor For Fake Real, or suffer arthritis and mortgage worries whilst trying to telephone Arcturus for Real real - which would you prefer?

Re:Six reasons for silence (0, Flamebait)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045304)

You blew it at 0.

and then what (1)

TravisHein (981987) | more than 4 years ago | (#33045436)

They are likely how many dozens of thousands of light years away ?
I guess we can now spend more attention observing spectra coming from these planets. But I am skeptical of chances of first contact from one of them (within our lifetimes).
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