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pefjr
01-08-2010, 11:23 AM
Amazing new telescope
Astronomers: We could find Earth-like planets soon




http://d.yimg.com/a/p/ap/20100107/capt.d33a7f84cfc9427f9efd81a89bb12029.earth_like_p lanets_ny121.jpg?x=213&y=134&xc=1&yc=1&wc=409&hc=257&q=85&sig=8xoCou18KcLX2kdffUAgNQ-- (http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/NASA/photo//100107/480/d33a7f84cfc9427f9efd81a89bb12029//s:/ap/20100107/ap_on_sc/us_sci_earth_like_planets)AP This image made from video provided by NASA shows an artist's rendition of what an Earth-like planet



By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, Ap Science Writer Thu Jan 7, 5:09 pm ET
WASHINGTON Astronomers say they are on the verge of finding planets like Earth orbiting other stars, a key step in determining if we are alone in the universe.
A top NASA official and other leading scientists say that within four or five years they should discover the first Earth-like planet where life could develop, or may have already. A planet close to the size of Earth could even be found sometime this year if preliminary hints from a new space telescope pan out.
At the annual American Astronomical Society conference this week, each discovery involving so-called "exoplanets" those outside our solar system pointed to the same conclusion: Quiet planets like Earth where life could develop probably are plentiful, despite a violent universe of exploding stars, crushing black holes and colliding galaxies.
NASA's new Kepler telescope and a wealth of new research from the suddenly hot and competitive exoplanet field generated noticeable buzz at the convention. Scientists are talking about being at "an incredible special place in history" and closer to answering a question that has dogged humanity since the beginning of civilization.
"The fundamental question is: Are we alone? For the first time, there's an optimism that sometime in our lifetimes we're going to get to the bottom of that," said Simon "Pete" Worden, an astronomer who heads NASA's Ames Research Center. "If I were a betting man, which I am, I would bet we're not alone there is a lot of life."
Even the Roman Catholic Church has held scientific conferences about the prospect of extraterrestrial life, including a meeting last November.
"These are big questions that reflect upon the meaning of the human race in the universe," the director of the Vatican Observatory, the Rev. Jose Funes, said Wednesday in an interview at this week's conference.
Worden told The Associated Press: "I would certainly expect in the next four or five years we'd have an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone."
Worden's center runs the Kepler telescope, which is making an intense planetary census of a small portion of the galaxy.
Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, which is a general instrument, Kepler is a specialized telescope just for planet-hunting. Its sole instrument is a light meter that measures the brightness of more than 100,000 stars simultaneously, watching for anything that causes a star to dim. That dimming is often a planet passing in front of the star.
Any planet that could support life would almost certainly need to be rocky rather than gaseous. And it would need to be in just the right location. Planets that are too close to their star will be too hot, and those too far away are too cold.
"Every single rock we turn over, we find a planet," said Ohio State University astronomer Scott Gaudi. "They occur in all sorts of environments, all sorts of places."
Researchers are finding exoplanets at a dizzying pace. In the 1990s, astronomers found a couple of new planets a year. For most of the last decade, it was up to a couple of planets every month.
This year, planets are being found on about a daily basis, thanks to the Kepler telescope. The number of discovered exoplanets is now well past 400. But none of those has the right components for life.
That's about to change, say the experts.
"From Kepler, we have strong indications of smaller planets in large numbers, but they aren't verified yet," said Geoff Marcy of the University of California at Berkeley. He is one of the founding fathers of the field of planet-hunting and a Kepler scientist.
But there is a big caveat. Most of the early exoplanet candidates found by Kepler are turning out to be something other than a planet, such as another star crossing the telescope's point of view, when double- and triple-checked, said top Kepler scientist Bill Borucki.

Kepler is concentrating on about one-four hundredth of the nighttime sky, scanning more than 100,000 stars, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand light years away. A light year is about 5.9 trillion miles. So such planets are too far to travel to, and they cannot be viewed directly like the planets in our solar system.
If there were an Earth-like body in the area Kepler is searching, the telescope would find it, Marcy said. But it can take three years to confirm a planet's orbital path.
What Kepler has confirmed so far keeps pointing to the idea that there are many other Earths. Before Kepler, those bodies were too small to be seen. Borucki this week announced the finding of five new exoplanets all discovered in just the first six weeks of planet-hunting. But all those planets were too large and in the wrong place to be like Earth.
When Kepler looked at 43,000 stars that are about the same size as our sun, it found that about two-thirds of them appeared to be as life-friendly and nonviolent as our nearest star.
Marcy, who this week announced finding a planet just four times larger than Earth, does not like to speculate how many stars have Earth-like planets. But when pressed, he said Thursday: "70 percent of all stars have rocky planets."
"If you are in the kitchen and are trying to cook up a habitable planet, we already know that in the cosmos, all the ingredients are there," he said.
While astronomers at the convention are excited about exoplanets, Marcy is more skeptical, as is Jill Tarter, director of the SETI Institute, which seeks out intelligent life by monitoring for electromagnetic transmissions. They said there is still the chance that the searches can come up empty.
Marcy said there is the small possibility that planets do not form easily at Earth's size, and that most are bigger.
Tarter who was the basis for a character portrayed in the movie "Contact" by Jodie Foster said: "I always worry that we talk ourselves into thinking we know more than we know."
Once an Earth-like planet is found in the right place, determining if there are the ingredients for life there will pose another hurdle.
It will require costly new telescopes. A massive space telescope to scan Earth-like planets for oxygen, water, carbon dioxide and even faint signs of industrial emissions from civilization would cost about $5 billion. For now, such a high price is a budget-buster, but that could change. Cornell University astronomer Martha Haynes said: "We are at a very special moment in the history of mankind."

LeeG
01-08-2010, 11:47 AM
speaking of cool telescopes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webb_Telescope

http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/

JWST will have a large mirror, 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court. Both the mirror and sunshade won't fit onto the rocket fully open, so both will fold up and open once JWST is in outer space. JWST will reside in an orbit about 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from the Earth.

http://michaelgr.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/james-webb-telescope-004.jpg

WX
01-08-2010, 05:53 PM
Is there any reason why they aren't looking at closer stars?

LeeG
01-08-2010, 06:08 PM
dunno, it's in the neighborhood. Maybe there are more stars over 100light years than under 100light years in the portion they are exploring?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler_telescope

Kepler downloads roughly 90-100 gigabits of science data[29] about once per month[30] - the latest such download was on 17-18 December, 2009

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/be/LombergA1024.jpg

An additional benefit of that choice is that Kepler is pointing in the direction of the Solar System's motion around the center of the galaxy. Thus, the stars which are observed by Kepler are roughly the same distance from the galaxy center as the Solar System, and also close to the galactic plane. This fact is important if position in the galaxy is related to habitability, as suggested by the Rare Earth hypothesis.

ron ll
01-08-2010, 06:17 PM
I was amazed at one of the discoveries of a couple of months ago of a solid planet with temperatures not that far from earth and it is only 40 light years away. That's pretty darn close. If I had traveled to it when I was a child, I'd be halfway back home by now. :)

My bucket list has only one thing; to still be alive when extra terrestrial life is proved (is proven?). I don't care if it's only microbes.

huisjen
01-08-2010, 06:36 PM
What about Pandora?

Dan

SMARTINSEN
01-08-2010, 06:55 PM
What on earth (so to speak) does the Vatican have to do with this?

James McMullen
01-08-2010, 08:11 PM
What on earth (so to speak) does the Vatican have to do with this?

Maybe they still feel guilty about all that persecution of Galileo biz, so they're being extra eager to make it seem like they respect the modern cosmology. Ol' Ptolemy must be spinnin' in his grave these days*.

* As well as engaging in axial precession, along with the equinoxes, of course.

Lew Barrett
01-08-2010, 09:25 PM
speaking of cool telescopes

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webb_Telescope

http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/


24 feet of mirror...that's a huge amount of light gathering outside the atmosphere. They are going to see some stuff! Very exciting applications of our technology.

Lew Barrett
01-08-2010, 09:28 PM
Sorry for the minor drift, but playing around on the jwst site, I found the following policy. Very enlightened, don't you think? Perfectly serious about that

Good thread starter by the way, pef.

NASA Still Images, Audio Files and Video
NASA still images, audio files and video generally are not copyrighted. You may use NASA imagery, video and audio material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages.

This general permission does not extend to use of the NASA insignia logo (the blue "meatball" insignia), the retired NASA logotype (the red "worm" logo) and the NASA seal. These images may not be used by persons who are not NASA employees or on products (including Web pages) that are not NASA sponsored.
If the NASA material is to be used for commercial purposes, especially including advertisements, it must not explicitly or implicitly convey NASA's endorsement of commercial goods or services. If a NASA image includes an identifiable person, using the image for commercial purposes may infringe that person's right of privacy or publicity, and permission should be obtained from the person. Any questions regarding application of any NASA image or emblem should be directed to:

Keith Wilson
01-08-2010, 09:40 PM
You can help look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Check out seti@home (http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/)(seriously).
As well as engaging in axial precession, along with the equinoxes, of course.
That very next morning, when there was nothing left of the Equinoxes, because the Precession had preceded according to precedent, this 'satiable Elephant's Child took a hundred pounds of bananas (the little short red kind), and a hundred pounds of sugar-cane (the long purple kind), and seventeen melons (the greeny-crackly kind), and said to all his dear families, "Goodbye. I am going to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees, to find out what the Crocodile has for dinner." And they all spanked him once more for luck, though he asked them most politely to stop.:D

pefjr
01-08-2010, 09:51 PM
What on earth (so to speak) does the Vatican have to do with this?Did ya miss this in the C&P?
Even the Roman Catholic Church has held scientific conferences about the prospect of extraterrestrial life, including a meeting last November.
"These are big questions that reflect upon the meaning of the human race in the universe," the director of the Vatican Observatory, the Rev. Jose Funes, said Wednesday in an interview at this week's conference.

brad9798
01-08-2010, 10:05 PM
For all the slamming the RC Church takes on this forum ... I am surprised that more folks are not applauding their addressing of the possibility!

As RC, I am 100% convinced that there is life out there ... and that we will find out ... eventually ... that have been/are here already!

Seriously.

Keith Wilson
01-08-2010, 10:11 PM
I do applaud it. They're taking it very seriously, as they should, and trying to figure out how to deal within their religious framework. We've come a very long way since the 1600s, the RC church included. Some people don't realize that (some Catholics, even).

LeeG
01-08-2010, 10:22 PM
what if they don't believe in the holy trinity?

brad9798
01-08-2010, 10:52 PM
Nice, leeg ... nice ... :rolleyes:

But I do appreciate that black humor!

:D

Duncan Gibbs
01-08-2010, 11:07 PM
what if they don't believe in the holy trinity?

Den derr in league wid da Debble and will be sent ta Hell!! :D:p

brad9798
01-08-2010, 11:17 PM
Den derr in league wid da Debble and will be sent ta Hell!!

Will they?

brad9798
01-09-2010, 11:28 PM
An earth like planet ? Improbable but not impossible. Odds not in favor of such a prediction.

Are you kidding? (statistically) Millions of Earth-like planets exist ...

Perhaps you are Baptist! ;)

(JUST kidding you!)

:D

S B
01-10-2010, 12:11 AM
I'm still looking for intelligent life here.:D

Vince Brennan
01-10-2010, 12:33 AM
I remember a SciFi story (many. MANY years ago) where a Jesuit astronomer concludes that "The Star Of Bethlehem" was actually a Nova, which nova had destroyed the intelligent life of a planetary system he was investigating. (Age and time do cloud memory, but I'm pretty sure that's close...)


Name of author and title of story?



Anyone?



Anyone?



Buehler?


Buehler?

brad9798
01-10-2010, 12:37 AM
Something ... V-o-o economics ...

Oh, Ferris Bueler's Day Off ...

VooDoo Economics ...

:)

I, Rowboat
01-11-2010, 02:21 PM
I'm still looking for intelligent life here.:D

As Carl Sagan (I think it was him) was fond of saying, perhaps the surest sign of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe is that they have elected to not contact us. :D

Covite
01-11-2010, 03:34 PM
I remember a SciFi story (many. MANY years ago) where a Jesuit astronomer concludes that "The Star Of Bethlehem" was actually a Nova, which nova had destroyed the intelligent life of a planetary system he was investigating. (Age and time do cloud memory, but I'm pretty sure that's close...)


Name of author and title of story?

...



Vince, that's it exactly. You're thinking of a short story called "The Star" by Arthur C. Clarke, 1955. It's online at:

http://lucis.net/stuff/clarke/star_clarke.html

Keith Wilson
01-11-2010, 05:50 PM
"The Star" by Arthur C. Clarke, 1955Yep. A couple of times I read it to my kids as a Christmas story; it was something of a tradition.

TomF
01-12-2010, 08:30 AM
I agree that the Catholic church is to be commended for being open to the possibility of life elsewhere.

Of course, after Simon Peter himself expressed his own confidence that other life was out there ... what choice did they have?
"The fundamental question is: Are we alone? For the first time, there's an optimism that sometime in our lifetimes we're going to get to the bottom of that," said Simon "Pete" Worden, an astronomer who heads NASA's Ames Research Center. "If I were a betting man, which I am, I would bet we're not alone — there is a lot of life."

Popeye
01-12-2010, 08:45 AM
i betting the first encounters will be with 'vulcans'

a deeply unemotional , logical , stoic , cultural and spiritual people