They’re all there! LV-426, Arrakis… Okay, maybe not all of those. Still, cool video.
Tag Archives | Exoplanets
Interstellar civilization may not be out there because it already destroyed itself – and so might we.
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Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth orbiting in the “habitable zone” – the distance from a star in which we might expect liquid water, and perhaps life.
What did not make the news, however, is that this discovery also slightly increases how much credence we give to the possibility of near-term human extinction. This because of a concept known as the Great Filter.
The Great Filter is an argument that attempts to resolve the Fermi Paradox: why have we not found aliens, despite the existence of hundreds of billions of solar systems in our galactic neighborhood in which life might evolve?
What are the global elite worried about? Apparently, the likely discovery of life in outer space sowing spiritual and existential unrest amongst the masses. The Huffington Post reports:
The WEF Global Risks report for 2013 states that “Given the pace of space exploration, it is increasingly conceivable that we may discover the existence of alien life or other planets that could support human life…in 10 years’ time.”
The risk factor of all of this comes with the long-term psychological and philosophical implications that will accompany the discovery of alien life.
“It will suggest that life is as natural and as ubiquitous a part of the universe as the stars and galaxies,” the report continues. “It fuel speculation about the existence of other intelligent beings and challenge many assumptions that underpin human philosophy and religion.” The WEF team “urges the global elite to prepare themselves and their nations for such a discovery.”
Curious about where to go next? The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog is a project to grade and rank the planets outside of our solar system which offer the most livable conditions, were humanity to ponder a move.
At right is a rendering of sunrise on one of the planets in the Gliese 581 planetary system, a top contender. As of now, there are 6 confirmed potentially habitable planets, 27 unconfirmed potentially habitable planets, and 30 predicted potentially habitable moons:
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The exoplanets Gliese 581 d, HD 85512 b, Kepler-22 b, Gliese 667C c, Gliese 581 g, and now Gliese 163 c are the only current six planets that are considered potentially habitable or object of interest for the search of extraterrestrial life (image above). The image shows these objects approximately to scale and compared with Earth and Mars. They also are ranked with the Earth Similarity Index, or ESI (number below the names).
SETI astronomers have eavesdropped on an alien star system thought to contain two "habitable" worlds in the hope of hearing a radio transmission from an extraterrestrial intelligence. Sadly, there appears to be no chatty aliens living around the red dwarf star Gliese 581. In results announced last week by Australian SETI astronomers, of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University in Perth, Gliese 581 was precisely targeted by Australian Long Baseline Array using three radio telescope facilities across Australia. This is the first time the technique of very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) has been used to target a specific star in the hunt for extraterrestrials, so although it didn't turn up any aliens, it is a proof of concept that may prove invaluable for future SETI projects...
Will the hazy exoplanet GJ 1214b be the spa-resort getaway of the year 2100? BBC reports:
Astronomers have claimed the existence of a new class of planet: a “water-world” with a thick, steamy atmosphere. The exoplanet GJ 1214b, just 40 light-years away, is a so-called “Super Earth” – bigger than our planet, but smaller than gas giants such as Jupiter.
Observations using the Hubble telescope now seem to confirm that a large fraction of its mass is water. The planet’s high temperatures suggest exotic materials might exist there.
Is this where humankind will be living in a couple millenia? In a solar system 600 light years away spins the newly-spotted Kebler 22-b, a rocky planet with oceans covering two-thirds of its surface, and balmy temperatures approximating 70 degrees. The Herald Sun reports on the greatest hope for a replacement Earth:
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A newly discovered planet about 600 light years from our little rock has scientists around the world in a spin, with many heralding it as the best chance yet of containing alien life.
The find, announced early last week by NASA, was uncovered by the US space agency’s Kepler spacecraft, launched on a planet-hunting mission in 2009.
The planet, Kepler-22b, is 2.4 times bigger than Earth, orbits a star slightly smaller than our sun and has an average temperature of 22C. It is also closer to its sun-like star, giving it a “year” of 290 days.
What makes this discovery so exciting is that it is the smallest planet right in the middle of what has been dubbed the Goldilocks zone, where it’s not too hot and not too cold to either boil or freeze water, vital for life as we know it.
It really is a strange universe out there. Marcus Chown writes in New Scientist:
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Buried in the flood of data from the Kepler telescope is a planetary system unlike any seen before. Two of its apparent planets share the same orbit around their star. If the discovery is confirmed, it would bolster a theory that Earth once shared its orbit with a Mars-sized body that later crashed into it, resulting in the moon’s formation.
The two planets are part of a four-planet system dubbed KOI-730. They circle their sun-like parent star every 9.8 days at exactly the same orbital distance, one permanently about 60 degrees ahead of the other. In the night sky of one planet, the other world must appear as a constant, blazing light, never fading or brightening.
Gravitational “sweet spots” make this possible. When one body (such as a planet) orbits a much more massive body (a star), there are two Lagrange points along the planet’s orbit where a third body can orbit stably.
The alien planet Gliese 581g set off a firestorm of controversy earlier this year when astronomers loudly declared it to be the first truly habitable planet found outside our solar system. One of several planets known to orbit the red dwarf star Gliese 581, the headline-grabbing world was described by one researcher as being "just the right size and just at the right distance [from its star] to have liquid water on the surface." Not so fast, other astronomers cried. Are you sure this planet actually exists? Even at a mere 20 light-years from Earth, Gliese 581g is too far away for us to see it directly. We have to infer its existence based on the planet's gravitational tugs on its host star.
We have just begun to try and image distant solar systems around other stars, and hopefully our techniques and technology will improve in the near future so that we can one day find — and take pictures of — planets as small as Earth. But what if another civilization from a distant star was looking at us? What would they see? A new supercomputer simulation tracking the interactions of thousands of dust grains show what our solar system might look like to alien astronomers searching for planets. It also provides a look back to how our planetary system may have changed and matured over time.