2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

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2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Bryant on Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:56 pm

2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away
By DENNIS OVERBYE
The New York Times


Astronomers working with NASA’s Kepler planet-finding spacecraft said Thursday that they had found the most Earth-like worlds yet known in the outer cosmos, a pair of planets that appear capable of supporting life and that orbit a star 1,200 light-years from here in the constellation Lyra.

The newly discovered planets are the two outermost of five worlds circling a yellowish star slightly smaller and dimmer than our Sun, heretofore anonymous and now destined to be known forever in the cosmic history books as Kepler 62. These planets are roughly half again as large as the Earth and are presumably balls of rock, perhaps covered by oceans with humid, cloudy skies, although that is at best a highly educated guess.

Nobody will probably ever know if anything lives on these planets, and the odds are that humans will travel there only in their faster-than-light dreams, but the news has sent astronomers into heavenly raptures. William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Center, head of the Kepler project, described one of the new worlds as the best site for Life Out There yet found in Kepler’s four-years-and-counting search for other Earths in the stars. He treated his team to pizza and beer on his own dime to celebrate the find (this being the age of sequestration). “It’s a big deal,” he said.

Looming brightly in each other’s skies, the two planets circle their star at distances of 37 million and 65 million miles, about as far apart as Mercury and Venus in our own solar system. Most significantly, their orbits place them both in the “Goldilocks” zone of lukewarm temperatures suitable for liquid water, the crucial ingredient for Life as We Know It.

Goldilocks would be so jealous.

Previous claims of Goldilocks planets with “just so” orbits snuggled up to red dwarf stars much dimmer and cooler than the Sun have been beset by uncertainties in the size and mass and even the existence of these worlds, said David Charbonneau of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, an exoplanet hunter and member of the Kepler team.

“This is the first planet that ticks both boxes,” Dr. Charbonneau said, speaking of the outermost planet, known as Kepler 62f. “It’s the right size and the right temperature.” Kepler 62f is 40 percent bigger than Earth and smack in the middle of the habitable zone, with a 267-day year. In an interview, Mr. Borucki called it the best planet Kepler has found.

Its mate, known as Kepler 62e, is slightly larger — 60 percent bigger than Earth — and has a 122-day orbit, placing it on the inner edge of the Goldilocks zone. It is warmer but also probably habitable, astronomers said.

The Kepler 62 system resembles our own solar system, which also has two habitable planets: Earth and Mars, which once had water and would still be habitable today if it were more massive and had been able to hang onto its primordial atmosphere.

The Kepler 62 planets continue a string of breakthroughs in the last two decades in which astronomers have gone from detecting the first known planets belonging to other stars, or exoplanets, broiling globs of gas bigger than Jupiter, to being able to discern smaller and smaller more moderate orbs — iceballs like Neptune and, now, bodies only a few times the mass of Earth, known technically as super-Earths. Size matters in planetary affairs because we can’t live under the crushing pressure of gas clouds on a world like Jupiter. Life as We Know It requires solid ground and liquid water — a gentle terrestrial environment, in other words.

Kepler 62’s newfound worlds are not quite small enough to be considered strict replicas of Earth, but the new results have strengthened the already rabid conviction among astronomers that the galaxy is littered with billions of Earth-size planets, perhaps as many as one per star, and that astronomers will soon find Earth 2.0, as they call it — our lost twin bathing in the rays of an alien sun.

“Kepler and other experiments are finding planets that remind us more and more of home,” said Geoffrey Marcy, a veteran exoplanet hunter at the University of California, Berkeley, and Kepler team member. “It’s an amazing moment in science. We haven’t found Earth 2.0 yet, but we can taste it, smell it, right there on our technological fingertips.”

A team of 60 authors, led by Mr. Borucki of Ames, reported the discovery of the Kepler 62 planets in an article published online in the journal Science on Thursday and at a news conference Thursday at Ames.

As if that weren’t enough, a group led by Thomas Barclay of Ames and the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute also reported the discovery of a planet 1.7 times as big as Earth hovering on the inner, warmer edge of the Goldilocks zone of Kepler 69, a star almost identical to the Sun, 1,040 light-years distant. At the news conference Dr. Barclay described the new planet as perhaps a “Super-Venus.” The group’s paper was published on Thursday in The Astrophysical Journal.

And in another paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, a group led by Lisa Kaltenegger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, in Heidelberg, Germany, took the first stab at trying to model conditions on the Kepler 62 planets. That is a tough job because the system is too far away for astronomers to measure the masses of these planets, which would allow the densities and compositions of the planets to be pinned down, or to inspect and analyze their atmospheres with telescopes.

Scaling up from the properties of the Earth, Dr. Kaltenegger and her colleagues concluded that both of them were probably ocean worlds with humid, cloudy skies. Any life on them would probably be aquatic, she said, but “it might even be cooler life than we have here. Looking at the oceans, we find a lot of interesting life-forms there.”

Dr. Kaltenegger said she envisioned the pair as a kind of Darwinian test tube and wondered in an e-mail if life would evolve on both worlds and, if so, “Would life evolve ‘the same’ way or would there be very different life?”

“This is huge for the overall life-elsewhere question,” said Sara Seager, a planetary expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not part of the work.

Alan Boss, a planetary expert at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and a member of the Kepler team, called the new results “the money shot” of the Kepler mission. “I would argue,” he said in an e-mail, “that if this was all that we learned from Kepler, that the cost of this mission was justified.”

Kepler, launched in March 2009, hunts planets by staring at 150,000 stars in a patch of Milky Way sky, monitoring their brightnesses and looking for blips caused when planets pass in front of their home stars. To date the spacecraft has identified 115 planets and has a list of 2,740 other candidates. (Over all, the world’s astronomers now know of almost 1,000 exoplanets.)

But Kepler, which had its mission extended for another four years last spring, is only now coming into its prime. A minimum of three blips is required to register a planet, and so planets like the Earth that take a year to make an orbit are only now coming into view in the Kepler data. Indeed, the new Kepler 62 planets each registered just three transits, as they are called.

But there is a hitch, Dr. Seager and others cautioned. Because the Kepler stars are all so far away — hundreds or thousands of light-years — and the planets we want to find are so small, astronomers will never be quite completely sure what any particular planet is made of or whether anything can or does live there.

In the case of Kepler 62, said Natalie Batalha of San Jose State University, a Kepler mission scientist, the astronomers had determined the composition of the new planets by comparison to three earlier objects that had similar sizes and turned out to be rocky.

“Mass by association,” Dr. Batalha called it in an e-mail message.

Which is fine if all you want is the statistics of the cosmos. As Dr. Seager pointed out, “Kepler was not designed to tell us which planet to go live on, only how common Earth-like planets are.”
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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Miles1 on Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:51 am

I'll hold off on packing my bags for a little while so... :-P

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Marconius on Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:05 pm

Miles1 wrote:I'll hold off on packing my bags for a little while so... :-P

Why??? The mothership will be here any minute.

Seriously. How many planets capable of supporting life do we know about now??? That number will skyrocket within the next 10 years. Give it another 200 and we may be ready to go to one. We wont be a successful species until we ensure our survivability and that means leaving this rock.

I would not want to be amoung those who make "first contact" though. Nasty things generally follow.

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Dennis324 on Mon Apr 22, 2013 8:35 pm

Is hyperspace just a dream or is it within the realm of possibility one day? Wormholes/folding space to make a jump/ etc.

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Sir Pun on Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:01 am

Idk about hyperspace per-say, but ways around the universal speed limit of light? Yes. Most likely some type of spacefold technology, or possibly something that folds or warps not only space, but also time. Problem is, you have to have an incredible amount of mass to so this, or energy.

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Sir Pun on Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:10 am

With enough technology, beings could take on almost godlike powers with the ability to manipulate things in ways we cant imagine. I mean our technological society is only roughly 100 years old. What would a tech culture look like that was tens of thousands or millions of years old? It would clearly be beyond our comprehension at this point.

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Bryant on Tue Apr 23, 2013 11:02 am

Marconius wrote:

I would not want to be amoung those who make "first contact" though. Nasty things generally follow.

I've seen enough sci-fi movies to know what happens to geologists who make 'first contact' with an alien plane! The abandoned 'base' in the movie Pitch Black was a geologic excursion.
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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Marconius on Tue Apr 23, 2013 11:33 am

Bryant wrote:
Marconius wrote:

I would not want to be amoung those who make "first contact" though. Nasty things generally follow.

I've seen enough sci-fi movies to know what happens to geologists who make 'first contact' with an alien plane! The abandoned 'base' in the movie Pitch Black was a geologic excursion.

So was the base in Aliens if I am correct as well as the base in The Thing. Yall scientists are sci-fi fodder.

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"We have four boxes used to guarantee our liberty: The soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box". -- Ambrose Bierce (1887)

"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, and they're behind us. They can't get away this time!" -Gen. L. "Chesty" Puller, CO, 1 MARDIV, in Korea surrounded by 22 enemy divisions

Had the Japanese got as far as India, Gandhi's theories of "passive resistance" would have floated down the Ganges River with his bayoneted, beheaded carcass. -- Mike Vanderboegh.
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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Bryant on Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:09 pm

Marconius wrote:
Bryant wrote:
Marconius wrote:

I would not want to be amoung those who make "first contact" though. Nasty things generally follow.

I've seen enough sci-fi movies to know what happens to geologists who make 'first contact' with an alien plane! The abandoned 'base' in the movie Pitch Black was a geologic excursion.

So was the base in Aliens if I am correct as well as the base in The Thing. Yall scientists are sci-fi fodder.

Although I do have a non-violent hypothesis for the base on Pitch Black. The movie only suggested that the aliens killed the geologists, but never proved it. In the movie there was no evidence of beer or any other form of alcohol on the base. Based off this observation, I propose that the reason for the missions collapse was due to a critical deficit of alcohol. It is a widely accepted fact that geologists, as the first alcohol based life forms, can not survive without fermented liquid.
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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Marconius on Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:35 pm

Bryant wrote:
Marconius wrote:
Bryant wrote:
Marconius wrote:

I would not want to be amoung those who make "first contact" though. Nasty things generally follow.

I've seen enough sci-fi movies to know what happens to geologists who make 'first contact' with an alien plane! The abandoned 'base' in the movie Pitch Black was a geologic excursion.

So was the base in Aliens if I am correct as well as the base in The Thing. Yall scientists are sci-fi fodder.

Although I do have a non-violent hypothesis for the base on Pitch Black. The movie only suggested that the aliens killed the geologists, but never proved it. In the movie there was no evidence of beer or any other form of alcohol on the base. Based off this observation, I propose that the reason for the missions collapse was due to a critical deficit of alcohol. It is a widely accepted fact that geologists, as the first alcohol based life forms, can not survive without fermented liquid.

Makes sense. I do think us oil field trash could give you guys a good run for the money when it comes to drinking though. Of course with us, there better be some food cooking as well.

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-The Honorable Ted Nugent

"We have four boxes used to guarantee our liberty: The soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box". -- Ambrose Bierce (1887)

"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, and they're behind us. They can't get away this time!" -Gen. L. "Chesty" Puller, CO, 1 MARDIV, in Korea surrounded by 22 enemy divisions

Had the Japanese got as far as India, Gandhi's theories of "passive resistance" would have floated down the Ganges River with his bayoneted, beheaded carcass. -- Mike Vanderboegh.
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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Sir Pun on Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:13 pm

Scientists; always poking your noses around...

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Sir Pun on Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:21 pm

My own theory is some kind of dark matter encircling a bubble of "normal" spacetime, within the ship resides and essentially remains stationary. When encapsulated by DM, everything inside, from the outside perspective is dark matter, which cant interact with regular matter and thus does not have to observe the same limitations of moving mass with energy. Movement of the bunble is achieved by shrinking spacetime in front of and expanding behind it, but the bubble of normal spacetime within, always emerges back in its "normal" spacetime.

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Sir Pun on Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:22 pm

Onviously this would take some sort of matter antimatter reactor

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Miles1 on Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:27 pm

Pun wrote:My own theory is some kind of dark matter encircling a bubble of "normal" spacetime, within the ship resides and essentially remains stationary. When encapsulated by DM, everything inside, from the outside perspective is dark matter, which cant interact with regular matter and thus does not have to observe the same limitations of moving mass with energy. Movement of the bunble is achieved by shrinking spacetime in front of and expanding behind it, but the bubble of normal spacetime within, always emerges back in its "normal" spacetime.

So basicaly an Alcubierre drive? Sorry, someone came up with the idea before you there - and to be fair, a "Pun Drive" doesn't have that impressive sci-fi ring to it :-P

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Miles1 on Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:57 pm

Bryant wrote:
I've seen enough sci-fi movies to know what happens to geologists who make 'first contact' with an alien plane! The abandoned 'base' in the movie Pitch Black was a geologic excursion.

Geologists (and scientists in general) are the sci-fi movie equivalent of the idiot kid in the disaster movie who goes running back towards the disaster to rescue their dog/dolly/whatever, their only purpose in life is to get some other poor sod into trouble through being a sheer dumb-ass.

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Re: 2 Good Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years Away

Post by Sir Pun on Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:42 pm

Miles1 wrote:
Pun wrote:My own theory is some kind of dark matter encircling a bubble of "normal" spacetime, within the ship resides and essentially remains stationary. When encapsulated by DM, everything inside, from the outside perspective is dark matter, which cant interact with regular matter and thus does not have to observe the same limitations of moving mass with energy. Movement of the bunble is achieved by shrinking spacetime in front of and expanding behind it, but the bubble of normal spacetime within, always emerges back in its "normal" spacetime.

So basicaly an Alcubierre drive? Sorry, someone came up with the idea before you there - and to be fair, a "Pun Drive" doesn't have that impressive sci-fi ring to it :-P
well yea in so far it shinks and expands spacetime rather than just space, but the dark matter bit is my own.

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