As if there wasn't enough excitement swirling around the discovery of a potentially habitable planet circling the star Gliese 581 just 20 light years away, one of the scientists behind yesterday's announcement upped the ante during a press briefing yesterday afternoon, declaring "my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent."
Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, said he had "almost no doubt" (which seems slightly different than 100 percent sure) that life exists on Gliese 581g, an exoplanet Vogt and colleagues discovered via the Keck Observatory that is orbiting in the "habitable zone" surrounding the red dwarf Gliese 581. The "habitable zone" -- a term some scientists are loath to use given the many variables at play in planetary science -- is the sweet spot that is neither too far or too close to the star such that surface water might exist there.
Vogt's statement might make for a bold prediction -- especially given the number of life-bearing planets we've found thus far -- but his statement is more an endorsement for the persistence of life than a declaration that he's found it elsewhere in the galaxy. "Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent," Vogt said to reporters.
Meaning, even if there is life on the planet as Vogt seems to think there is, there's no telling what kind of life it might be or whether it might be any degree of intelligent -- though an Australian sky-watcher did pick up a mysterious radio signal from nearby Gliese 581e a couple of years ago. Just to be safe, we'd like to extend warmest greetings to our Gliesian readers.
What are we going to call the humanoids there? Gliesians? 581g isn't a good starting point.
BTW, I heard that they only have one toe on there feet, but they have ten legs, so their math should be decimal based as ours is.
Any scientist that would say the odds are "100%" or "almost no doubt" are poor scientist. Short of a signal, it is only speculation. I believe alien life can exist, but at this point I would lump these guys into the same category as the UFO people.
Too much belief and not not enough evidence.
And I shall name this planet...REACH
given the planet has 3x earth's mass, it's good to know we'll be a lot bigger than the first aliens we'll meet ;)
also, the star is a red dwarf; do we know if it is the collapsed remnant of a larger star? if so, its supposed atmosphere has already been blown away, right?
Thank you popsci for posting more info on Gliese.
I wish nasa or jaxa would do more with the planets in this solar system.
the ´mysterious radio signal´ noticed in australia actually wasn´t near gliese 581.
I'd be willing to bet there is some kind of life on there or at least the remnants of life.
They found that this planet has an orbit that casts a permanent shadow on half of the planet - that would cause so many differences in how that planet maintains equilibrium compared to Earth - the weather and geology would be so different. And I haven't heard anything yet on atmosphere and the levels of radiation hitting the surface of this planet.
VERY interesting though, I hope they can find out more and soon. Maybe we can figure out a way to send them a signal to kindly stop messing with our nukes. :)
@JohnR: Yep, I agree without you. Statements without any kind of proof except some assumed probability are just hyperbole.
On the other hand, I think the guys are just acting like people usually do, which is being carried away by the situation. They will probably be a bit embarrassed once the party feeling dies down and things are back to normal routine.
I would have limited my statement to that if the planet has a general chemistry that contains the basic building blocks of life, it would be somewhat surprising if it turns out that the planet doesn't have any kind of life at all.
Intelligent life is an altogether different issue, and as the joke goes, we must first find it here on Earth before we start to look for it in other places.
Wow, 100%certainty and "propensity of life to flourish wherever it can". I can understand a scientist getting excited and putting in their personal feelings but no scientist should ever speak in absolutes and the circular logic of life existing where it can makes my stomach turn.
Ok it is a step in finding a planet that meets ONE criteria for habitability. There are at least 50 or so other conditions that would have to be met to be hospitible to life.
For instance if the planet does not rotate as the earth does there would be no magnetic field to protect against radiatiion making for yet another dead planet.
Also, elsewhere it is noted that the planet circles it's star in aboout 37 days. This would be too short to produce any kind of meaningful plant growing cycle. Scientists are just a little to cavalier about what needs to happen for life to flourish considering we as of this very moment know of ONE place in the universe wehre even microbial life exists. Yes, this could change tomorow if Titan is found to contain microbial life but that has not happened YET.
I often hear the argument that there are so many candidates out there that there must be life based on the probabilities. And yes there is a stagging amount of planets we will soon find to be candidates. But equally staggering is the probability of specific conditions that must me met before life can develope. I think we are really all just being over optimistic in finding complex life forms anytime in the near future.
I could be wrong and we find life tomorow but I'll bet we will still be having this argument 50 years from now.
"Welcome! to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack!!!"
I hope this planet isn't another Mars. T_T that would be tragic for any living organism there. Well, I can't wait to see the extreme environments if there is life! Think about it! maybe near the sun-side there's a huge desert and on the other side is an ice cap, much like Antarctica. The desert side would have the hardiest organisms, most likely underground. The ice caps may be home to migratory animals that migrate when the planet is farthest away from its sun. Then, at the "dawn-zone" between the dark and light side is a huge biosphere probably. Photosynthetic plants that are very efficient due to the little light might be there. Then again its assuming that it Gliese 581 g is capable of supporting multicellular or macroscopic life. I certainly hope it is!
So I'm guessing this guy is going to get flamed to no end until we point a strong enough telescope at the planet to actually see it's surface.
In the event that we do see living creatures on the planet, the flamers will still flame this guy to no end because he was right...
I don't care for this article. The only news is the statement. The article doesn't really discuss it, just drags us out waiting for the full context of the quotation (a snippet of the title, a longer version in the lead, and the full quotation, with all hedges and hints that this is purely wishful thinking on the part of the scientist, at the end.)
Not to say that I'm not hopeful - it's just anyone's guess right now, and his guess isn't any better than anyone else's.
@43LX I think we should name it Eden Prime instead.
How do we know there will be humanoids?
"How do we know there will be humanoids?"
The point is that this planet is just a wobble in the data. How far can you go with that?
Bad prediction by a scientist "100%", but equally bad assumption by the people on here to read "life" as "humanoid", or even intelligent. A one cell organism is "life".
John R. your argument of a scientist saying 100% is wrong is quite flawed because a scientist can say that if i drop a ball on earth that 100% of the time it will hit the ground. the extraterrestrial beings do not have to as intelligent as us for there to be life on that planet. there can be primitive life. as quantum warrior mentioned there is a high possibility of the majority of the organisms to be in the "dawn-zone" but there can be ones in the arid desert part of the planet or the freezing tundra. i personally believe this planet could be used as a human colony in the case we do create and master wormhole technology. i personally feel that the first fusion reactor will be completed in 2012 instead of the apocalypse and quantum computers soon after
SlushiTee3092, your statement, "John R. your argument of a scientist saying 100% is wrong is quite flawed because a scientist can say that if i drop a ball on earth that 100% of the time it will hit the ground."
Is incorrect for two reasons. I can certainly drop a ball and have it not hit the ground (I just have to put out my hand). Second the 100% the scientist is claiming is wrong because it is based on speculation not proven fact.
meh... i'd only be excited if i could make it there within my lifetime, and only if i wasn't a vegetable at that.
Einstein was just one man, who's to say someone equally or more talented describes a more profound science in the coming years. We only know what we currently comprehend. There is no unified principle so what do we really know? Also public opinion is to send people, but why not drones that can gather intelligence, and to that effect swarms of micro drones, such that could be propelled with less effort. The mars rovers proved that drones are the next wave in exploration. Of course I too dream of the day where we can be a warp riders bending space. Slipping between the curves in the exploration of space and time.
@V3RTIGO well because of time dilation, using a project orion-like nuclear pulse propelled spacecraft, You would only age a few months or years during the trip... everyone you know and love would probably be dead but you would still have decades to live to tell the tale.
And I would like to remind everybody that just because we haven't found life elsewhere doesn't mean it isn't there or even common. on earth, wherever there is liquid water and usable energy, there has been life. These conditions are not unique to the earth; Europa, Ganymede, Titan, and possibly Mars or even the upper atmosphere of venus could all posses these two key traits and now we can likely add Gleise 581g (which I will also call Reach) to that list.
Quite frankly, life is tenacious. Once it gets its foot in the door, theres no getting rid of it. I'd personally give life better than even odds of existing on this new world. Regardless, when we eventually do find life elsewhere in the universe, even if its nothing more than pond scum, it will be the greatest discovery since fire. And who knows? perhaps we're the ones lighting the proverbial torch.
I don't recall the detection method used. The article doesn't say either. I'm too tired to look it up, but wouldn't it be great if it's not one planet but a binary?! I mean *if* it was detected with the "wobble" method, it couldn't be ruled out. Could it? The orbit might be too close for a stable binary I suppose. Anyone know?
The scientists can only infer that *a* planet in that orbit would be tidally locked. They haven't imaged it directly. I don't believe any binary planets/planetoids have been confirmed outside our solar system, therefore they wouldn't jump to such a conclusion without some evidence. Of the kind that might be seen with the solar transit method.
That, if it is possible, would mean two even more earth-sized bodies. And with all of the surface of each livable rather than just a ring around one. It would have to be an awesome spectacle. Closest thing we'd ever see to a real life Pandora...
...I mean with the hovering rocks and all, not the assumption there is any sort of life. Though, I wouldn't be that surprised.
I love how you all are so doubtful and think you know more than actual astronomers who work in this field everyday. Well looks like all we need to do is have you guys trade jobs with these obviously idiotic scientists. You guys should now be the astronomers and they can work at game stop in the mall.
I'm pretty sure this statement was in complete error, and by the wrong scientist. This guy is an astronomer, NOT an astrobiologist. A planet that is tidally locked with its parent star is not likely to have active geology, simply because of the fact that the lack of rotation of the planet would slow the molten iron core to a halt.
The proximity it would have to be to a red dwarf would also cause some problems with the magnetosphere.
So, lack of iron core means it probably has a lack of a magnetosphere. Lack of magnetosphere means lack of protection from solar winds and solar radiation, AND solar storms.
Solar winds rip the atmosphere right off of a planet if they have no magnetic protection to carry the charged particles away from the planet.
This would also cause a lack of protection from radiation, and would also mean that even though the planet is in the habitable zone, there would be a lack of pressure on the surface of the planet, meaning water would instantly turn into vapor and be blasted out of the atmosphere after the next storm.
I really think this statement was made in complete error. But wouldn't it be nice if he was correct?
@rghensley- I believe the throught behind popsci is that a "common" man can take an interest in science too and that anyone has the ability to think and reason. YOU are the worst kind of elitist who believes nothing can come from someone who does not have a phD to their name. Sometimes the "pros" get so caught up in their little area of expertiese that they fail to see the big picture. Are you so closed minded as to feel threatened by a group of individuals who want to discuss their thoughts? Besides what does it say about you?
The scientist who made the 100% statement is having his statement taken to task and rightfully so because it is sloppy and irrisponsible.
@edisonkenevil "37 days. This would be too short to produce any kind of meaningful plant growing cycle"
This would make some kind of sense if we had any indication that this planet was orbiting in an irregular orbit, or that the planet was not tidally locked, seeing as axial shift is not possible on a tide-locked planet, and axial shift is what creates seasonal patterns on earth.
It's pretty interesting that earth's weather would not be stable at all if it weren't for our moon. Leading to the idea that complex life would be unable to easily survive the constant change in axis of the planet, and our day/night cycle would be about 8 hours, due to brakes the moon throws on our planet's spin.
Then there's the issue of only having a solar tide. Life itself was helped severely by our moon's close proximity to the earth. When life was just getting started on earth, tides went in and out in excess of 50 feet high per day. This could have covered hundreds of feet of shore in tide pools, causing the soup of chemical elements to thicken and increase the odds of spontaneous generation of life from dissolved minerals.
In my opinion, in order to support complex life, a solar body needs several basic things, a solute, an energy source (geothermal, tidal friction, direct sunlight), protection from radiation (magnetosphere, ice, ocean cover, extreme distance, a gas giant in the outer solar system (to ward off constant impacts), and comets to carry excess building blocks for life to he planet. I think either being a moon, or having a moon would also be something that is necessary for long-term stability necessary for complex life to evolve.
These factors are also figured into Drake's Equation, so I'm pretty sure these are popular views in science.
@XIII: Those are all valid problems. But for instance, the problem with solar radiation. Aside from occasional flare-ups that are associated with red dwarfs, isn't the radiation output of a red dwarf paltry compared to most stars? in which case the radiation (except during a flare.) might not be powerful enough to strip the atmosphere away.
I could be wrong, the problem is that until we can get there ourselves(or with machines.) there are just too many variables involved to make any determinations about it. But from our current amount of data on it, it seems likely to be habitable. New data might change it, or reinforce that point, we ultimately don't know, but it's fun to think about. :)
It might be valid that a red dwarf being cooler would reduce the strength of solar storms and solar winds, but we also have to keep in mind that the habitable zone in a red dwarf system is much closer to the star, which would increase the intensity of any radiation hitting the surface in the first place.
It may well have an atmosphere, but I am quite skeptical because of the lack of geothermal activity (of course, geothermal activity is not fully understood in much of the universe, to include our own solar system. We have no idea why the core of our planet is as hot as it is... Many theories involving lunar tides causing friction from the core flexing, radioactive materials, etc. are all worth some study)
But it is probable that a planet with no axial rotation would likely be geologically dead.
As for the likely to contain life, I'm sure you are aware that we're talking about two factors out of possibly thousands when it comes to life. Size and temperature are hardly indicators for habitability. By our reckoning, Venus and Mars are in the habitable zone, and the right size, the real problem is that both of them inexplicably died.