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Author Topic: Another Earth: "Nearby?"  (Read 371 times)

Zachary The First

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« on: March 14, 2008, 12:33:11 am »
Shoulda listened to those sci-fi authors, you wacky scientists!

Link

Quote
Earth may have a twin orbiting one of our nearest stellar neighbors, a new study suggests.  
  University of California, Santa Cruz graduate student Javiera Guedes used computer simulations of planet formation to show that terrestrial planets are likely to have formed around one of the stars in the Alpha Centauri star system, our closest stellar neighbors.  
  Guedes' model showed planets forming around the star Alpha Centauri B (its sister star, Proxima Centauri, is actually our nearest neighbor) in what is called the "habitable zone," or the region around a star where liquid water can exist on a planet's surface.  
  The model also showed that if such planets do in fact exist, we should be able to see them with a dedicated telescope.  
  "If they exist, we can observe them," Guedes said.  
  Guedes' study has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.  

  A likely candidate  
  Astronomers have for some time pinned the Alpha Centauri system as one that was likely to form planets, said study co-author Gregory Laughlin, a UCSC professor.
  "I think that there's been a good line of evidence over the past decade or so," Laughlin told SPACE.com.  
  Several factors mark the system, particularly Alpha Centauri B as friendly to planet formation, Laughlin said. The metallicity of Alpha Centauri B (or how much of its matter is made up of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) is higher than our Sun's, so there would be plenty of heavier-mass material for planets to form from, he said.
  Also, because the planet iwould form in a triple star system, the processes that form large Jupiter-mass gas giants, which account for most of the extrasolar planets found so far, would be suppressed. So it would be more likely for the system to produce terrestrial planets.  
  Laughlin also noted that a number of factors make Alpha Centauri B a good candidate for astronomers to actually detect an Earth-sized terrestrial planet.
 
Training telescopes
 
  The Doppler detection method, which has revealed the majority of the 228 known extrasolar planets, measures shifts in the light from a star to detect the tiny wobble induced by the gravitational tug of an orbiting planet.
  Because Alpha Centauri B is so bright and nearby, detecting a small terrestrial planet's miniscule wobble would be that much easier. Also, its position high in the sky of the Southern Hemisphere means it is observable for most of the year, just as the Big Dipper is observable for most of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
  According to Laughlin, five years of observations using a dedicated telescope would be needed to detect an Earth-like planet around Alpha Centauri B. If astronomers do dedicate substantial resources to detecting an Earth-like planet, this is the star to focus on, he added.
  "We're advocating that there's a strong possibility a planet could be there," he said.  
  Other stars are thought to harbor Earth-like planets, and solar systems like ours are starting to be found. Astromoners announced last month the discovery of a solar system with striking similarities to ours.  
  If such a planet is found, spacecraft, such as the proposed Terrestrial Planet Finder, could be launched to find out more information about the world, such as whether or not it had water on its surface, Laughlin said.
  Study co-author Debra Fischer of San Francisco State University is leading an observational program to intensively monitor Alpha Centauri A and B using the 1.5-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The researchers hope to detect real planets similar to the ones that emerged in the computer simulations.
  "I think the planets are there, and it's worth a try to have a look," Laughlin said.  
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beejazz

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2008, 02:04:52 am »
Yes, but do they have *oil*?

Okay, kidding... but how crazy would it be if we got there and found out there was everything we needed to live but very little in the way of viable fuel sources or even metals? All aboard the spaceship bound for the bronze age!

John Morrow

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2008, 04:12:29 am »
Zefram Cochrane used to be from Alpha Centauri, before they turned him into a hippy.

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jeff37923

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2008, 09:44:08 am »
Oh God, there goes the Traveller Stellar Generation Debate alarm again....

(I love Traveller, but I've seen too many flame wars erupt over this subject.)

Zachary The First

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2008, 10:06:01 am »
Quote from: jeff37923
Oh God, there goes the Traveller Stellar Generation Debate alarm again....

(I love Traveller, but I've seen too many flame wars erupt over this subject.)

As I said the other day, in regards to Traveller Flame Wars, the flames don't really go out.  It's more like this. :p

So says Zachary The First, of the Imperial Moot. :D
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jeff37923

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2008, 03:23:20 pm »
Quote from: Zachary The First
It's more like this. :p



And you, fellow Mooterian, are exactly correct. ;)

Zachary The First

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2008, 06:21:01 pm »
Quote from: jeff37923
And you, fellow Mooterian, are exactly correct. ;)

Whoa! I didn't know you were over there!  Wonder how many of us Trav grognards are on this board...
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Ian Absentia

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2008, 06:26:38 pm »
I lurk only, and do my very best to not let the canon fanatics bespoil my Traveller universe.

!i!

Vellorian

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2008, 01:59:32 am »
I remember the example given in my Astrophysics classes on how hard it is to find an earthlike planet:

Imagine staring at a nuclear explosion from 25 miles away, just as it goes off.  Your job is to find the candle 20 feet from the fireball.
Ian Vellore
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Kyle Aaron

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2008, 02:55:28 am »
Doesn't matter what the place is like, we can't go there anyway, alas.

Stupid laws of physics.
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beejazz

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2008, 03:04:35 am »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron
Doesn't matter what the place is like, we can't go there anyway, alas.

Not with that kind of attitude we can't!

Malleus Arianorum

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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2008, 09:00:10 am »
So... how wide is the habitable zone anyway?
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Another Earth: "Nearby?"
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2009, 01:32:37 pm »
I didn't know that people didn't know this.