Nearest Sol-Like Star May Host Habitable Planet

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Nearest Sol-Like Star May Host Habitable Planet

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One of the closest stars to our own sun, and one of the most like it, has a planetary system.

A team of astronomers from Australia, Chile, the United Kingdom, and the United States has discovered that the star Tau Ceti hosts five planets, one of which has a mass about five times that of earth and sits in the planet's habitable zone. Tau Ceti is the closest star with similar characteristics to our own. The planet, as of yet unnamed, is the smallest planet yet found in the habitable zone of a star similar to ours. Steve Vogt, a coauthor of the study, said that "This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such potentially habitable earth-sized planets." The planets were discovered using a new technique that combines observations from different instruments into a model, and then analyzes the model to detect signals much smaller than previously possible.

The primary author of the study, Miko Tuomi, said that "We pioneered new data modeling techniques by adding artificial signals to the data and testing our recovery of the signals with a variety of different approaches. This significantly improved our noise modeling techniques and increased our ability to find low-mass planets." The scientists then chose Tau Ceti as a benchmark, because Tau Ceti had no planets, but their increased finding power turned up planets anyway. Because Tau Ceti is so close and so bright, having knowledge of these planets means we might be able to study their atmospheres in the near future, said one study scientist.

The study was a collaboration between several international institutions as part of the Anglo-Australian planet search, and used spectrographs on telescopes in La Silla, Chile; Siding Spring, Australia; and Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Source: UCSC
Image: NASA

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Wouldn't it be seriously cool if they actually discovered life there. Any kind of life.

So many great gritty sci-fi futures are opening up as legitimate possibilities!

But...FIVE TIMES the mass? Oi. That'll take some acclimating.

Mark D. Stroyer:
So many great gritty sci-fi futures are opening up as legitimate possibilities!

But...FIVE TIMES the mass? Oi. That'll take some acclimating.

Doesn't necessarily mean that that planet is five times as dense. More likely, it's just really big.

Sgt. Sykes:
Wouldn't it be seriously cool if they actually discovered life there. Any kind of life.

Xenomorphs?

In all seriousness, this is potentially great, but we won't be getting there for who knows how many centuries.

Artificial signals, eh? But what if those new planets are artificial as well!

ResonanceSD:

Sgt. Sykes:
Wouldn't it be seriously cool if they actually discovered life there. Any kind of life.

Xenomorphs?

In all seriousness, this is potentially great, but we won't be getting there for who knows how many centuries.

Its unlikely that anything beyond bacteria has evolved. The 5g means virtually all the natural compounds used to make structure will break easily. So anything large is out. Its beginning to look like that the Earth unusually low mass because this is the lowest mass planet found yet.

Tau ceti huh? Welp, one day in the future we will have space pirates!

http://mouretsupirates.wikia.com/wiki/Tau_Ceti_system

The planet will be named "Sea of the morningstar"
http://mouretsupirates.wikia.com/wiki/Sea_of_the_Morning_Star

Mouretsu Pirates!

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albino boo:

ResonanceSD:

Sgt. Sykes:
Wouldn't it be seriously cool if they actually discovered life there. Any kind of life.

Xenomorphs?

In all seriousness, this is potentially great, but we won't be getting there for who knows how many centuries.

Its unlikely that anything beyond bacteria has evolved. The 5g means virtually all the natural compounds used to make structure will break easily. So anything large is out. Its beginning to look like that the Earth unusually low mass because this is the lowest mass planet found yet.

5 times larger than earth =/= 5G

If it is lower density than earth, good chance that even if it's larger, gravity would still be at a tolerable level for people and structures.

If we eventually explore planets like this, any astronauts would have to be put through rigorous physical conditioning as well as a kind of anti-grav gel suit would be needed to not crumple into a puddle of goo upon landing.

rudolphna:

5 times larger than earth =/= 5G

If it is lower density than earth, good chance that even if it's larger, gravity would still be at a tolerable level for people and structures.

I believe the article said 5 times the mass, it didn't mention it's size.

rudolphna:

albino boo:

ResonanceSD:

Xenomorphs?

In all seriousness, this is potentially great, but we won't be getting there for who knows how many centuries.

Its unlikely that anything beyond bacteria has evolved. The 5g means virtually all the natural compounds used to make structure will break easily. So anything large is out. Its beginning to look like that the Earth unusually low mass because this is the lowest mass planet found yet.

5 times larger than earth =/= 5G

If it is lower density than earth, good chance that even if it's larger, gravity would still be at a tolerable level for people and structures.

Apart from the fact its 5 times the mass not 5 times larger.

What, no Wrath of Khan references? :)

Diana Kingston-Gabai:
What, no Wrath of Khan references? :)

You fail the geek test! Its Ceti alpha not Tau Ceti. For the crime of bad star trek knowledge I sentence you to watching al the star trek movies until you are word perfect.

Apparently Tau Ceti is only 12 light years away; that means a ship could get there in 12 years travelling at the speed of light, right? Prepare for blast-off!

To be fair, half the reason we only find big planets is because we're not quite sophisticated enough to find small planets.

There's a good joke here, I can feel it. I just...don't know what it is.

Also, it would need to be awfully non-dense for the gravity to be especially reasonable. I mean, workable, sure, but not comfortable.

I pose that earth is near the upper limit for useful planetary gravity. For example, we want a space elevator to make moving mass to orbit easier. If we lived on mars, nylon is fine, you can build a Martian space elevator with 60s tech. On earth, you need 65000 km long carbon nanotubes, essentially defect free, an then only maybe is it doable. Up the gravity, say goodbye to space elevators. On a 1.5 g world, you need a lot more gas to escape gravity, so space travel is severely hampered.

Geekeric:
Apparently Tau Ceti is only 12 light years away; that means a ship could get there in 12 years travelling at the speed of light, right? Prepare for blast-off!

More like prepare to die don't see us reaching those speeds ( and surviving) anytime soon...

I think we need to carefully select the people we send over there. We don't want to create a second earth do we, where we have people to busy demanding studies about videogames whilst their country is sliding into a permanent recession.

It's Chariots of the Gods! It's the Nephilim!! It's Star Trek or Star Wars or---

*comes to sudden halt*

Oh, who do I think I'm kidding?

You guys do know that the chances are any life forms on any nearby worlds will probably be microbial life...maybe a few kittens--IF WE'RE LUCKY!

Copper Zen:
It's Chariots of the Gods! It's the Nephilim!! It's Star Trek or Star Wars or---

*comes to sudden halt*

Oh, who do I think I'm kidding?

You guys do know that the chances are any life forms on any nearby worlds will probably be microbial life...maybe a few kittens--IF WE'RE LUCKY!

Unfortunately it's quite difficult to work out the probability of life evolving into an advanced civilization on other planets. There are almost certainly going to be other ones out there, but they're not likely to be anywhere near us or maybe not even in the same galaxy. You also have to take timescales into account, so a lot of them might already be extinct or millions of years away from developing.

Of course, this is for earth-like civilizations, life might evolve in other circumstances that we're not aware of.

That Hyena Bloke:

Copper Zen:
It's Chariots of the Gods! It's the Nephilim!! It's Star Trek or Star Wars or---

*comes to sudden halt*

Oh, who do I think I'm kidding?

You guys do know that the chances are any life forms on any nearby worlds will probably be microbial life...maybe a few kittens--IF WE'RE LUCKY!

Unfortunately it's quite difficult to work out the probability of life evolving into an advanced civilization on other planets. There are almost certainly going to be other ones out there, but they're not likely to be anywhere near us or maybe not even in the same galaxy. You also have to take timescales into account, so a lot of them might already be extinct or millions of years away from developing.

Of course, this is for earth-like civilizations, life might evolve in other circumstances that we're not aware of.

I agree with you.

But kittens? Technologically advanced sapient kittens?

Think of the possibilities! They could arrive here and bring Peace on Earth with their advanced Cuteness!

*sighs*

Copper Zen:
It's Chariots of the Gods! It's the Nephilim!! It's Star Trek or Star Wars or---

*comes to sudden halt*

Oh, who do I think I'm kidding?

You guys do know that the chances are any life forms on any nearby worlds will probably be microbial life...maybe a few kittens--IF WE'RE LUCKY!

B-b-but, I want to meet an Elcor!
image
SO ADORABRU~!

albino boo:
Apart from the fact its 5 times the mass not 5 times larger.

So, you're saying that the planet is extremely dense therefore a living creature would either have to be microscopic or built like a truck with thick skin and great body support to live there?
It just HAS to be the Elcor's home planet, Dekuuna!

Geekeric:
Apparently Tau Ceti is only 12 light years away; that means a ship could get there in 12 years travelling at the speed of light, right? Prepare for blast-off!

Technically, sort of maybe yes and no. Once you approach anywhere near the speed of light, you'll hit a distortion in the passage of time. Essentially you'll be in space for a period of time that is actually shorter than what passed for those waiting on you. You could get there and only aged a year, but back on earth your kids already have kids who might be close to having kids of their own, for instance.

Copper Zen:

That Hyena Bloke:

Copper Zen:
It's Chariots of the Gods! It's the Nephilim!! It's Star Trek or Star Wars or---

*comes to sudden halt*

Oh, who do I think I'm kidding?

You guys do know that the chances are any life forms on any nearby worlds will probably be microbial life...maybe a few kittens--IF WE'RE LUCKY!

Unfortunately it's quite difficult to work out the probability of life evolving into an advanced civilization on other planets. There are almost certainly going to be other ones out there, but they're not likely to be anywhere near us or maybe not even in the same galaxy. You also have to take timescales into account, so a lot of them might already be extinct or millions of years away from developing.

Of course, this is for earth-like civilizations, life might evolve in other circumstances that we're not aware of.

I agree with you.

But kittens? Technologically advanced sapient kittens?

Think of the possibilities! They could arrive here and bring Peace on Earth with their advanced Cuteness!

*sighs*

I can actually picture a funny scenario where an advanced war-loving species that loves violence and destruction...Just happens to be what humans naturally and instinctively consider "absolutely freaking adorable."

Hilarity ensues when our first contact involves the evisceration of half of the recon team when they lower their guard at the sight of a kitten-based lifeform.

1. Distance?
2. At what speed can our spaceships travel?

gphjr14:

Geekeric:
Apparently Tau Ceti is only 12 light years away; that means a ship could get there in 12 years travelling at the speed of light, right? Prepare for blast-off!

More like prepare to die don't see us reaching those speeds ( and surviving) anytime soon...

Que? Speed is not an issue, it's acceleration which can cause problems for us fleshy meatbags, and it's entirely possible to reach 99%c by constantly accelerating at 1G, which has the added benefit that if you build the ship with an internal layout like a skyscraper rather than an ocean ship, you get free Earth-normal pseudo-gravity without arsing about with rotating ring sections. By flipping the vessel over and using the main engines to decelerate at 1G as well, you maintain that benefit through the entire trip, and can even vary the rate of acceleration/deceleration at a gradual rate in order to acclimate your passengers to variant gravities(for eg, your target world has a gravity of 1.3G, so you continue accelerating proportionately longer than you would otherwise, and then when you flip and begin to decelerate instead of doing it at a constant 1G, you decelerate in a steadily increasing curve until you hit 1.3G a good few weeks before arrival).

Particle impacts can be mitigated by the generation of an artificial version of the Earth's geo-magnetic field, in combination with the encasement of much of the outer hull in a thick layer of ablative cometary ice, and larger objects can be denuded down to manageable particles using a high-intensity laser, but bear in mind that random objects on the scale that would require such a laser are seriously rare in deep space.

The main problem now is propulsion; the more fuel you add, the more mass the vessel has, and the more fuel you need to add. Fusion rockets combined with some kind of particle ramscoop should deal with that issue through.

Mark D. Stroyer:
To be fair, half the reason we only find big planets is because we're not quite sophisticated enough to find small planets.

this. people complaining that all planets in galaxy is bigger shoudl remember that we only recently got the technology to notice planets. surely we are going to start with largest ones first, then find the smaller ones.

Geekeric:
Apparently Tau Ceti is only 12 light years away; that means a ship could get there in 12 years travelling at the speed of light, right? Prepare for blast-off!

Nothing can travel at the speed of light BUT light... because it has no mass. The fastest unmanned space craft traveled 157,000 mph. At that rate of speed, it would take 8500 years just to travel the distance of one light year. So 8500 times 12... 102,000 years just to get there. And another 102,000 to get back.

Magichead:

gphjr14:

Geekeric:
Apparently Tau Ceti is only 12 light years away; that means a ship could get there in 12 years travelling at the speed of light, right? Prepare for blast-off!

More like prepare to die don't see us reaching those speeds ( and surviving) anytime soon...

Que? Speed is not an issue, it's acceleration which can cause problems for us fleshy meatbags, and it's entirely possible to reach 99%c by constantly accelerating at 1G, which has the added benefit that if you build the ship with an internal layout like a skyscraper rather than an ocean ship, you get free Earth-normal pseudo-gravity without arsing about with rotating ring sections. By flipping the vessel over and using the main engines to decelerate at 1G as well, you maintain that benefit through the entire trip, and can even vary the rate of acceleration/deceleration at a gradual rate in order to acclimate your passengers to variant gravities(for eg, your target world has a gravity of 1.3G, so you continue accelerating proportionately longer than you would otherwise, and then when you flip and begin to decelerate instead of doing it at a constant 1G, you decelerate in a steadily increasing curve until you hit 1.3G a good few weeks before arrival).

Particle impacts can be mitigated by the generation of an artificial version of the Earth's geo-magnetic field, in combination with the encasement of much of the outer hull in a thick layer of ablative cometary ice, and larger objects can be denuded down to manageable particles using a high-intensity laser, but bear in mind that random objects on the scale that would require such a laser are seriously rare in deep space.

The main problem now is propulsion; the more fuel you add, the more mass the vessel has, and the more fuel you need to add. Fusion rockets combined with some kind of particle ramscoop should deal with that issue through.

That would be a great find in a Fallout style game! Imagine, wandering through the wastes, when you happen across an enormous skyscraper in the middle of a large concrete field. The lower levels look like a hotel because they are the living quarters of the ship, but climbing to the top, you realize the upper levels are filled with highly advanced tech because you are approaching the control center of the ship. You get to the top, and there's the central command station with the launch button so tantalizingly open.

Games aside, I don't see us getting off Earth to visit other worlds any time soon, as robots seem to serve our purposes well enough when it comes to exploration, and they're easier to maintain with little ethical questions surrounding their use. It would be a great engineering feat to construct such a ship as you are describing, though, and I would love to see it happen in my lifetime.

albino boo:
The 5g means virtually all the natural compounds used to make structure will break easily. So anything large is out. Its beginning to look like that the Earth unusually low mass because this is the lowest mass planet found yet.

Five times the mass doesn't tell you what the force of gravity is on the surface. If the planet is only twice the diameter of the Earth, the gravity would only be 1.25 times that on Earth. Granter, that would make for a planet a little less dense than Earth, but the point is that the raw mass isn't informative about surface gravity.

grigjd3:

albino boo:
The 5g means virtually all the natural compounds used to make structure will break easily. So anything large is out. Its beginning to look like that the Earth unusually low mass because this is the lowest mass planet found yet.

Five times the mass doesn't tell you what the force of gravity is on the surface. If the planet is only twice the diameter of the Earth, the gravity would only be 1.25 times that on Earth. Granter, that would make for a planet a little less dense than Earth, but the point is that the raw mass isn't informative about surface gravity.

According to the law of gravity, the attractive force between two bodies is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance. If density was a factor then 1kg of feathers would fall slower than 1kg of iron.

albino boo:

According to the law of gravity, the attractive force between two bodies is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance. If density was a factor then 1kg of feathers would fall slower than 1kg of iron.

You have no clue what you are talking about. The force of gravity is F = GM1m2/r^2. That is the force is equal to a number times the mass of one object times the mass of the second object divided by the square of the distance between the two *centers* of mass. If the planet is larger, the *center* of mass of the planet is further from the *surface* of the planet, thus reducing the force of gravity - thus in this case, the density of the planet is particularly important to the surface gravity. And by the way, your analogy isn't referring to the density of the planet but the density of the object you are dropping - in other words, you're completely misquoting the equivalence principle.

grigjd3:

albino boo:

According to the law of gravity, the attractive force between two bodies is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance. If density was a factor then 1kg of feathers would fall slower than 1kg of iron.

You have no clue what you are talking about. The force of gravity is F = GM1m2/r^2. That is the force is equal to a number times the mass of one object times the mass of the second object divided by the square of the distance between the two *centers* of mass. If the planet is larger, the *center* of mass of the planet is further from the *surface* of the planet, thus reducing the force of gravity - thus in this case, the density of the planet is particularly important to the surface gravity. And by the way, your analogy isn't referring to the density of the planet but the density of the object you are dropping - in other words, you're completely misquoting the equivalence principle.

Do you mind pointing out where there term for density is in F = GM1m2/r^2.

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