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Space => Life on Other Worlds => Topic started by: Bird of Prey on October 03, 2009, 02:28:54 am

Title: NASA/Harvard Teams Say "Finding a Second Earth Could Happen Anytime Now"
Post by: Bird of Prey on October 03, 2009, 02:28:54 am
Rocky Planet Discovery: NASA/Harvard Teams Say "Finding a Second Earth Could Happen Anytime Now"



"It could happen almost any time now. We now have the technological capability to identify Earth-like planets around the smallest stars."

David Latham -Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

To date, Planet hunters have spotted more than 300 planets beyond our solar system, but the vast majority are hot, Jupiter-sized planets that would dwarf the Earth and are almost certainly lifeless.

A few weeks ago, the first rocky planet was found outside solar system, but the surface temperature is far too hot to sustain life. The planet, called CoRoT-7b, is the first planet beyond our solar system with a proven density similar to Earth's, astronomers say. Most known exoplanets are large gas giants like Jupiter.

The tiny planet was discovered orbiting a star slightly smaller and cooler than our sun, about 500 light-years away. As the planet passed in front of its star, it eclipsed a small portion of the star's light, causing a dip in brightness.

Astronomers may be on the brink of discovering a second Earth-like planet, a find that would add fresh impetus to the search for extraterrestrial life. Astronomers from six major centers, including NASA, Harvard and the University of Colorado, agreed at a conference last year that advances in technology suggest scientists are on the verge of being able to detect the presence of small, rocky planets, much like our own, around distant stars for the first time. The planets are considered the most likely habitats for extraterrestrial life.
Finding a rocky planet with an Earth-like density brings us one step closer to discovering another planet similar to our own. A twin-Earth beyond the solar system could provide the best chance of finding life elsewhere in the universe.

The majority of the atoms in our bodies were created in the Big Bang 15 billion years ago. Most of the mass in our bodies are oxygen atoms that were created by generations of stars that preceded the formation of our Sun. We are a subset of the physical universe. And through astronomy this negligible subset is slowly acquiring -however limited- an awareness of the total universe that created it.

The great thing about outer space? It's absolutely full of fantastic stuff just waiting for us to be able to see it:  every time we improve our observations, either the equipment or analysis, something new and brilliant jumps out of the universe saying "Here I am!"  Now fans of interplanetary ideas have been rewarded with the very first rocky planet outside the Solar System.
Everything we've seen previously has been some Jupiter-like gas giant, a huge ball of not-solid-stuff-like-Earth that's still interesting but - since we don't imagine meeting alien clouds very much - not as exciting.  But it isn't the case that space only features balls of gas, it's just that our technology couldn't see anything smaller.  Until now.

A collaboration between the COROT and HARPS systems has detected a rocky expolanet five hundred light years away, a small stone ball less than twice the diameter and about five times the mass of Earth - giving it the same density as our place.  Don't imagine any aliens just yet though (or if you do, make them pretty heat resistant) - it orbits only 2.5 million kilometers from its star, sixteen times closer than even Mercury gets.  The expolanet's "year" is thus shorter than our day - meaning that even if there is an asbestos-based civilization their economy is utterly devastated by birthdays.

COROT is the COnvection ROtation and planetary Transit satellite, scanning thousands of stars to see the tiny dips in brightness caused by planets.  HARPS is the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, a super-sensitive spectrograph installed on a Chilean telescope to accurately identify how fast a wavelength source moves.  Between them, they were able to identify the location of the planet and work out it's orbital radius and speed, thereby working out the mass and size.  And with names like that, they probably combine to form Voltron's big brother.

It's awesome stuff for scientists.  Yet another example of how we'll never be bored, how the universe is simply stuffed with things waiting for us to detect them.

Luke McKinney

Title: Re: NASA/Harvard Teams Say "Finding a Second Earth Could Happen Anytime Now"[/
Post by: Volitzer on October 04, 2009, 01:46:48 am
It's called Venus.    ;)

Title: Re: NASA/Harvard Teams Say "Finding a Second Earth Could Happen Anytime Now"[/
Post by: Robert0326 on October 04, 2009, 08:38:23 am
Why do you have to ruin a great article with your nonsense Volitzer?

Although Venus is called the Earth's "twin," its surface conditions appear to be very different from those of the Earth. Geologists have had difficulty learning about the surface of Venus because the planet is always surrounded by thick clouds of sulfuric acid. They have used radar, radio astronomy equipment, and space probes to "explore" Venus.

Until recently, much of what geologists knew about the surface of Venus came from ground-based radar observations, the Soviet Union's Venera space probes, and United States Pioneer probes. In 1990, the U.S. space probe Magellan began orbiting Venus, using radar to map the planet's surface.

The surface of Venus is extremely hot and dry. There is no liquid water on the planet's surface because the high temperature would cause any liquid to boil away.

Venus has a variety of surface features, including level ground, mountains, canyons, and valleys. About 65 percent of the surface is covered by flat, smooth plains. On these plains are thousands of volcanoes, ranging from about 0.5 to 150 miles (0.8 to 240 kilometers) in diameter. Six mountainous regions make up about 35 percent of the surface of Venus. One mountain range, called Maxwell, is about 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) high and about 540 miles (870 kilometers) long. It is the highest feature on the planet. In an area called Beta Regio is a canyon that is 0.6 mile (1.0 kilometer) deep.

There are also impact craters on the surface of Venus. Impact craters form when a planet and asteroid collide. The moon, Mars, and Mercury are covered with impact craters, but Venus has substantially fewer craters. The scarcity of impact craters on Venus has led geologists to conclude that the present surface is less than 1 billion years old.

A number of surface features on Venus are unlike anything on the Earth. For example, Venus has coronae (crowns), ringlike structures that range from about 95 to 360 miles (155 to 580 kilometers) in diameter. Scientists believe that coronae form when hot material inside the planet rises to the surface. Also on Venus are tesserae (tiles), raised areas in which many ridges and valleys have formed in different directions.

The atmosphere of Venus is heavier than that of any other planet. It consists primarily of carbon dioxide, with small amounts of nitrogen and water vapor. The planet's atmosphere also contains minute traces of argon, carbon monoxide, neon, and sulfur dioxide. The atmospheric pressure (pressure exerted by the weight of the gases) on Venus is estimated at 1,323 pounds per square inch (9,122 kilopascals). This is about 90 times greater than the atmospheric pressure on the Earth, which is about 14.7 pounds per square inch (101 kilopascals).


The temperature of the uppermost layer of Venus's clouds averages about 55 degrees F (13 degrees C). However, the temperature of the planet's surface is about 870 degrees F (465 degrees C), higher than that of any other planet and hotter than most ovens.

The plants and animals that live on the Earth could not live on the surface of Venus, because of the high temperature. Astronomers do not know whether any form of life exists on Venus, but they doubt that it does.

Most astronomers believe that Venus's high surface temperature can be explained by what is known as the greenhouse effect. A greenhouse lets in radiant energy from the sun, but it prevents much of the heat from escaping. The thick clouds and dense atmosphere of Venus work in much the same way. The sun's radiant energy readily filters into the planet's atmosphere. But the large droplets of sulfuric acid present in Venus's clouds -- and the great quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere -- seem to trap much of the solar energy at the planet's surface.

Title: Re: NASA/Harvard Teams Say "Finding a Second Earth Could Happen Anytime Now"
Post by: Brooke on October 05, 2009, 03:25:22 pm
Robert, you have to know by now that Volitzer arrives at the topic of NASA that everything they say is a big lie!

So, he is probably suggesting that the noxious atmosphere on Venus is all a BIG FIB told by the government scientists to cover up George Adamski's tall tales about Venus.

Right, Volitzer??

Title: Re: NASA/Harvard Teams Say "Finding a Second Earth Could Happen Anytime Now"
Post by: Robert0326 on October 05, 2009, 07:21:50 pm
I know but his explanations are usually very funny.

Title: Re: NASA/Harvard Teams Say "Finding a Second Earth Could Happen Anytime Now"
Post by: Brooke on October 06, 2009, 12:54:41 am
Not to mention PARANOID!

Title: Re: NASA/Harvard Teams Say "Finding a Second Earth Could Happen Anytime Now"
Post by: Robert0326 on October 06, 2009, 08:46:35 am
Very true.  If I were a Shrink I bet I could make a career out of him.