Scientists have tracked down another goldilocks planet 31 light-years from Earth, and according to astronomers it has some strong points in its favor when it comes to the possibility of harboring the ingredients for life. HD85512b orbits an orange dwarf in the constellation Vela, and it's just the right distance from the sun--and just the right mass--to rank among the most Earth-like planets ever discovered.
And by "among," we mean really one of just two (or three, depending on how you feel about Gliese 581g). Of the hundreds of exoplanets astronomers have recently discovered orbiting distant stars, only one--Gliese 581d--has been of the proper mass and distance from its star to be considered a strong candidate for habitability. Nearby Gliese 581g was once thought to be even more Earth-like than 581d, until some scientists asserted that 581g doesn't even exist--a point that is still under debate.
HD85512b was discovered by the ESO's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, or HARPS, in Chile (it's the same instrument that found Gliese 581d. The data show that HD85512b is roughly three-and-a-half times the mass of Earth and rings its planet on the inner fringe of the so-called "goldilocks zone" that is not to distant and not too close to harbor liquid water. It's size is also indicative of an Earth-like atmosphere of oxygen and nitrogen rather than the hydrogen and helium that dominate the atmospheres of larger worlds.
That alone makes it a potential candidate for life, but HD85512b has a couple of other characteristics working for it. For one, its orbit is almost perfectly circular and stable, so any climate on the planet wouldn't swing wildly as it orbits. The planetary system is older than our own--a full one billion years older--so clearly it's had enough time for life to potentially have developed there. in the same vein, its star is also more mature than our sun so it is less prone to violent solar activity that could destabilize the planet's atmosphere.
Of course, there's no way to tell if it actually has an atmosphere with modern instruments, and atmosphere is a critical ingredient here. Since HD85512b is orbiting on the inner portion of the goldilocks zone, it is more akin to Venus than to Earth in the amount of solar energy it's taking on. But scientists speculate that cloud cover of fifty percent or more could offset that proximity enough to allow life to thrive--albeit a kind of life more suited to a balmy, hot environment (relative to Earth's).
On average, Earth boasts 60 percent cloud cover so the idea of HD85512b having 50 percent isn't so far-fetched. In fact, it's probably more likely than the idea of humans building a light-speed spacecraft and then making the 31-year journey to go in for a closer look at the weather. But it's fun to think about.
I have read that our earth having a moon and its exact proximity\orbit is one of the main reasons life develop on earth. It would be nice if they find a similar type moon situation with this new type of goldilocks planet.
Maybe the Moon helped, but I doubt a single moon set up is required for life to form. There are probably a myriad of other ways. 31 light years huh? Man that is so depressing to think that even going the speed of light it would still take 31 years to get there. Does anyone know off hand what the current speed limit for man made objects is, in other words, how fast could a ship go before breaking up and human tolerance? Galactic distances are going to be the largest hurdle to becoming a space faring species, well, besides our own stupidity that is.
bring on warp prives and slipstream!!! wonder if there is good fishing in the seas there? ahhh the possiblities
I am not sure as to our limits; however, I can tell you that Voyager 1 is currently the fastest moving space craft which we have created and it is only moving at an approximately 38,500 mph (more than 62,000 km/h).
One of the big problems (at this moment) is the immense amounts of energy required to push ships to interstellar speeds. For example, if one were to push a Titanic-sized spacecraft to a (non-relativistic) speed of .1c, it would take the equivalent of about half the world's energy production in a year (or about 1/10th of the US nuclear arsenal); even at that speed it would take about 300-400 years to reach the 31 ly of that wonderful nearby planet (giving time for accel / deaccell). Space, here we come!
I think we've been looking at space travel in far-too much of a Newtonian way. Classic physics can't solve the problems of the future. We've just begun to scratch the surface of quantum mechanics and when we master those concepts we'll discover alternative modes of "trave" that will get us to Gliese or this planet much more quickly than current forms. I for one can see a form of teleportation/data transmission that could get us there almost instantly. If we could figure out exactly how Quantum Entanglement works, we might be able to get there in seconds. On TED you will find a video of a young man who made the first macroscopic quantum object. And there is no known rule that says what happens on the quantum level can't happen on macroscopically, and he pretty much proved it.
What if we could use quantum entanglement on a region of space? We could entangle a region of space enclosing a ship, with another region near some planet in a far-flung solar system. Then through so--as yet unknown process--swap those two regions, so that the volume of extrasolar material appears here in our system, and that ship has replaced it.
I'll coin this term right now! QUANTUM DISPLACEMENT
The speed/range of this system would be limited to the range of the technology that makes it possible. In theory, one day we'd be able to traverse the entire galaxy in seconds but that might require building a network of "anchors" that will swap entangled regions with each other, moving a vessel along. One downfall is it may only be possible to move a set number of vehicles at any given time (like a gigantic shell game).
I think scientists should RIGHT NOW figure out if its possible to use quantum entanglement on a region of space, and if its possible to force those regions to swithc places altogether or simply exchange their energy content(its hard to imagine, but I'm sure if you told someone from Ancient Rome that Venus and Mars are just planets that we've studied at length, and in fact, not gods they'd be shocked and surprised, probably in denial).
*cough*need to set up a reciver base at destination*cough
*cough*would have to travel to plant to do this*cough
*cough*quatum entagalment as of now only affects light*cough*
*growls*If you troll or flare I WILL MAUL YOU!*growls*
I *STILL* dont understand why earth bound and space bound telescopes are able to clearly make out an entire galaxy 81 billion light years away from earth, can clearly see one of the arms in the spiral, and yet cannot capture a pic of a planet only 31 light years from earth
glad you offered challenges to the idea. What if there's things about the universe we don't yet know? What if each star has a specific signature? What if we could direct our machine to place a vehicle x distance from that signature? That might be far fetched. Perhaps, the best way would be to use a really powerful laser to "capture" that region, in which case it'd take 31 years to build this "highway." But every subsequent trip would be nearly instant.
That kinda takes care of the first two contentions.
Lastly, scientists have entangled more than photons. Everything from quarks and gluons up to hydrogen molecules and more can be entangled. According to "phsyics" a macroscopic object can't be in two places at once (as opposed to a quantum object existing as a wave and thus, in more than one location at any given time). But if you check out that TED video, you will see a piece of metal in two places at once. ;)
It seems the secret to getting macroscopic objects to behave as quantum objects is to make them absent of any form of radiation (heat, radio, light, etc.) So the obvious answer is to build a meta-material that can "cloak" a large vehicle from these forms of radiation!
Ok so NASA found another explanet. Really big news but were in the wide range universe is it located?? Up down straight across from earth? And what galaxy is it in cause every known galaxy has a name. And how does a
moon create life on earth??
the reason we cannot look at a planet "only" 31 light years away while still being able to see a galaxy billlions of light years away is that not only is a planet's radiance dwarfed by the star it orbits but also a galaxy is billions of light years across compared to a few thousand kilometer diameter planet. Hope this clears things up
Lawsonrw I think current entanglement is limited to changing site B into site A. I am not sure if they swap information. So you would just be creating a copy of site A. You would also have to make the trip to site B the conventional way to build your second entanglement machine. Hopefully the machine can copy the electric signals going through your brain so you are still YOU when ya get there.
I'm think they are up to dozens of atoms at a time now.
Scubasteve I dont think we are detecting visible light. It's not just printing out a pic of a galaxy 81 light years away, its numbers then recreated by artists
@bob5312...you are correct, except for the size of galaxies, the Milkyway is 100,000 light years across, you are off by a few zeros, cheers
Would something at light speed either have 0 mass or infinite mass? So impossible right?
Meta-materials are looking like they will be the key to overcoming most of the challenges.
scubasdsteve8, good question. Firstly, the furthest galaxy detected to date is about 13 billion light years away and not 81. Second, galaxies (spirals) like our Milky Way are 100,000 to 200,000 light years in diameter. All exoplanets are in our galaxy and we could call it our "neighborhood". Galaxies shine visible light from billions of stars (some with diameters greater than the orbit of Jupiter) while a small planet reflects light from a relatively small star.
So galaxies can be see in different spectrums also while planets are detected by means of gravitational effects upon the star they orbit or by light differentials when the planet transverses the star. Not that both deltas are very very small and requires very accurate instruments.
You can see many nearby galaxies with a simple refractor and some with binoculars.
@bob5312 -- you asked several questions. I'm going to tackle some of them.
"Ok so NASA found another explanet. Really big news but were in the wide range universe is it located?? Up down straight across from earth?"
The planet, HD85512b, orbits the star Gliese 370, which is just 31 light years away. In the scales of "light speed", it's pretty close. It's in the Vela constellation, which is in the southern sky. In other words, if you live in the northern hemisphere, it's going to be pretty hard to see.
"And what galaxy is it in cause every known galaxy has a name."
Well, the star is only 31 light years away. The Milky Way galaxy, which is the galaxy we are in, has a radius of 50,000 light years. 50,000 > 31 ... It's pretty simple man, the star Gliese 370 and the planet HD85512b are in the Milky Way galaxy, just like us.
As for this article; I'm sure this is just the first of many potential planets we're going to find. I say "potential" because we don't truly know what it is we're detecting until we can directly see it. Anyways, there's nothing unique about our Sun, so it stands to reason that there are planets around every star we see. That said, science requires proof and the gathering of proof takes time, so these steps are very necessary. Discoveries such as this one are helping to lay the foundation of evidence that will change science from requiring proof other stars have planets, to science assuming other stars have planets.
Just the idea of these places and their distances from us is amazing. It blows my mind every time. The thought of standing on the moon and looking back at earth brings tears to my eyes. Imagining these galactic destinations is just amazing. On the other hand it might be like going on a trip. When you get there it feels pretty much the same as where you were :)
We Humans have to stop thinking in terms of our own personal existences. We have a problem with only thinking in terms of our life expentancies. Which means we only tend to foresee what will inherantly effect our own life spans. So we sit and hope that someone discovers faster then light technologies instead of approaching our futures with a more practical solution.
Given what we know and our current scientific capabilities we can and should start colonizing other terestrial bodies I.E. our moon, other planets moons etc. Mine asteroids and other terestrial bodies to create ships for longer distance travels within the universe. Create ships that are capable of sustaining life indefinately so we can send scores of people across the galaxy while having dual missions. Keep the ship on course for its destination, Reproduce to replace every ship member and train all offspring to take the place of every crew member as necessary as they grow old and pass away. This would allow for 100's of years worth of traveling through space. The ships would have to have the technology on board as well to mine asteroids and explore other terestrial bodies to maintain upkeep of the ship so it could be repaired as needed.
This could be done but would take a massive ship with the ability to simulate home world comforts to keep the species from developing psychological disorders through generations of being away from the home world. However this all starts with one step. That step is starting to move people off this world and on to colonies planted on terestrial bodies within our own solar system.
So our milky way galaxy is 50,000 lightuears large. Don't you think NASA would have discoverd everything about our own galaxy with all the probes there sending into space, everyday there sending something new up there. It says that the planet was made 2 billion years before our solar system was created do shouldn't that section of the milky way show any evidence as to how our galaxy was created?
@lawsonrw I like the way your mind works. I also frequent TED and have been to one of there "Gatherings"
genome8 this was not NASA "Ok so NASA found another explanet". It was dicovered by ESO. ESO is the European Southern Observatory. Their HARPS instrument has been making many great discoveries lately. And this article should have mentioned Stephane Udry the Swiss Astronomer who led the discovery including more members of the University of Geneva. It`s made a bit confusing because the article on national geographic somehow insinuates that Lisa Kaltenegger led the discovery while she led a self made follow on `evaluation` study to the planet`s Habitability and not the planets discovery itself. Her follow on study was submitted on 17 August. As she states herself she follows on the just published data by ESO/Geneva, stephane Udry`s team that discovered the planet in the Goldilocks zone.
@scubasdsteve87 It helps to think of it like this. Your eyes are receivers of a signal, and the greater the distance from your eye to the signal of interest, the lower the signal to noise ratio is. The same goes for any analog sensor that is meant to be interpreted by the human eye. The greater the distance, the lower the signal to noise ratio.
Have you ever needed to turn the volume up on your TV because you had trouble hearing it? Well pretend that your TV is the planet HD85512b and you are 1 mile away from it. The sound waves travel just like light, but the farther away the receiver is, the more degraded and distorted the sound will be.
Here is the really cool part. When we look into space with an Earth telescope and see galaxies and star formations, that information is all right here on earth. In fact, information from the entire universe is being beamed to us and it is no farther away than your eye is to your eye lashes.
Now come on, that is pretty cool right? Information about the entire cosmos is literally sitting here on the surface of our planet 24/7.
@genome8 During our short existence as a species we have not witnessed the defacto birth of a single galaxy in the universe. The truth is, not even Stephen Hawking could tell you how one is created.
I personally believe this is because gravity doesn't really work the way we think it does. We believe that every particle has an attractive force, and the aggregate sum of a group of dense particles amplifies the attractive force of the whole.
I think this is where the confusion stems from. We kind of accept gravity as a law of physics, but we don't know how or why it even exists. We just kind of put together a strong case for it based off of observation.
If gravity is the way we understand it and it actually did exist, how is it that the part of the asteroid belt that is farthest away from Jupiter and eclipsed by the Sun, maintains its steady circular orbit even with the gravitational interference from the Sun being closer to those asteroids than Jupiter? It would seem to me like the Sun's gravity would cause those asteroids to move inwards towards the inner solar system.
Instead we see asteroids being pushed away from Jupiter as it makes its procession around the Sun.
given that all of these planets we discovered dwelling in the so called "goldilox" zone are relatively close to earth on a grand scale, it is not unreasonable to believe these "goldilox" planets will start popping all over as our tech for seeing them increases.Very exciting for thinking of future colonization of other habitable worlds, I have always been a dreamer when it comes to the infinite possibilities the universe holds. The gradual discovery of extra-solar planets reminds me of early astronomy, at first all man knew of was the sun, the stars, and the moon, then little by little we started to discover more and more planets orbiting our sun until we have discovered all of them and all of their moons. One day man will locate the perfect habitable extra-solar planet and we will go there, one-way (warp-drive/wormholes) or the other (a really long road trip)! That is if we last that long...
Perhaps we can point a few satilite dish directly their way and broadcast a few " HELLO, HOW IS YOU DAY? " Messages.
Since obvisously we can not be there in our own life times, maybe we will experience the joy of somebody communicating back to us and learn something new.
No, lets not be friends. *muffled in the background* Charge the planet destroyer.