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Archive for Saturday, May 31, 2008

Small, Earth-like planet detected

May 31, 2008

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— Astronomers have discovered what may be the smallest alien planet yet - a rocky "super-Earth" only four times heavier than our home planet.

It's orbiting a small star at a distance that puts it in the so-called "habitable zone" - a region neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water and therefore suitable for possible life.

Scientists believe such Earth-like planets are the best hope for detecting evidence of living organisms beyond our solar system.

The tentative finding, which has yet to be confirmed, was reported during the May meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Cambridge, Mass.

The object is one of 45 potential new planets in the Milky Way galaxy recently discovered by the European Southern Observatory's 140-inch telescope perched on a mountaintop at La Silla, Chile.

"The mass of the planets and the sheer number of them represents a huge step towards finding planets of the Earth's mass, and ones that might be suitable for life as we know it," Sara Seager, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, said in an e-mail interview. "What amazes me is that these planets may be very, very common."

Comments

bondmen 6 years, 6 months ago

The "anthropic principle" and "habitable zones" among other concepts are covered in detail in The Privileged Planet DVD. I highly recommend it!http://www.illustramedia.com/tppinfo.htm

Paul Decelles 6 years, 6 months ago

I have always been skeptical of anthropic principle arguments. and quite frankly don't buy the design argument that is often advanced as an implication of certain forms of the anthropic principle.An example from the link you provided: The fact that the atmosphere is clear is cited as something special.Well gee doesn't it make some sense that organisms might evolve to make use of those wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that penetrate the atmosphere?Another claim is that without the moon life on this planet would not have arisen. Well maybe this claim makes some sense. See:http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4786-no-moon-no-life-on-earth-suggests-theory.htmlBut that sort of thing has nothing to do with design...any more than a chance and improbable meeting between my parents means that I am here for some sort of cosmic purpose.In fact the existence of small earth like planets in the so called habitable zone argues against the privileged planet notion. Is intelligent life in the Universe common. Probably not and we may indeed be the only intelligent species around-but I don't see how you argue from this to the design hypothesis.Improbability does not imply design.

gr 6 years, 6 months ago

"Improbability does not imply design."But does improbability imply probability?Discovery of this new planet can only be the result of man-made carbon dioxide.

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