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Old 10-01-2010   #1
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Exoplanet discovered in star's "Goldilocks Zone"

You may have already heard about this - it's all over the web, but since no one else has posted it here well, I guess I will.

First, the Goldilocks Zone. If you aren't familiar with that term, you haven't been reading quite a number of my other scientific posts here in AS over the past, ohhh... 4 or 5 years so I'll recap: The GZ is the distance away from any star where, if there were a planet there and this planet had water and an atmosphere similar in density to our own (not composition, mind you, but density), this planet would receive enough heat from the star where water can remain a liquid at least part of the time. Not so far away that water is perpetually frozen, not so close that it is above boiling.

All of the over 400 extrasolar planets discovered thus far have been most decidedly un-earthlike in almost every way possible; most being described as "hot Jupiters". These are immense gas balls more akin to tiny unlit stars than to planets and usually (but not always) in preposterously close orbits to their suns.

One particular star has been getting a lot of attention in the last few days. A nondescript red dwarf star called Gliese 581 has recently been discovered to have not only a planet in this star's GZ, but a rocky, near-Earth-mass and -sized planet. This is in addition to the five other planets already known to orbit Gliese 581! This is a real solar system, folks. Some of the planets are Hot Jupiters and at least one is a traditional gas giant at the outer edges of the star's feeble gravity. Maybe "nondescript" is a poor choice of adjectives...

Gliese 581 itself is, as I said, a red dwarf. This is not like a White Dwarf which is the leftovers of a star's death. A red dwarf is a stable star with less mass than the sun. The lighter a star is, the cooler, dimmer and redder it burns - and for a very long time, indeed. Some calculations suggest that a very small red dwarf star could burn steadily and unchanging for a million, million years! A star like Gliese 581 probably has a life of 50,000 to 100,000 million years. Compare that to our own sun which is estimated to undergo a fundamental change in its internal structure due to the helium pop (when the helium ash in the core begins to fuse) in about 5,000 million years.

This solar system is old. Estimates of Gliese 581's age say that we're looking at a star between seven and eleven thousand million years of age! Even at the low end estimate, Gliese 581 is already two thousand million years older than our entire solar system! Any life which might be there - depending on when it did start, but let's assume things happened at the same rate as in our own solar system so life appeared about a billion years after the birth of its sun - there could be a rather advanced species there. In fact, given that we are talking about titanic spans of time, there might have been dozens or even hundreds of civilizations which have risen and fallen on the still unknown surface of Gliese 581 g even before our sun was born.

EDIT: This is interesting. Somehow, this little factiod slipped past my radar...(Borrowed from Wiki):

Quote:
Radio signal sent from Earth

A Message From Earth (AMFE) is a high-powered digital radio signal that was sent on 9 October 2008 towards Gliese 581 c, a large terrestrial extrasolar planet orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581. The signal is a digital time capsule containing 501 messages that were selected through a competition on the social networking site, Bebo. The message was sent using the RT-70 radar telescope of Ukraine's National Space Agency. The signal will reach Gliese 581 in early 2029.
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Last edited by ablethevoice; 10-01-2010 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 10-02-2010   #2
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Re: Exoplanet discovered in star's "Goldilocks Zone"

What I think is really amazing is that the Kepler telescope went up about a year and a half ago, and we look at a couple of nearby stars and find exactly the kind of planet that we were looking for. It's not improbable to assume that there are fuckin planets everywhere. It's kind of egotistical to assume that only our star has them; in fact, taking recent discoveries into account, it seems safer to assume that more stars have them than not.

The only thing we have to do is, you know, get there in less than like, a thousand years. CERN: I'm looking at you
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Old 10-03-2010   #3
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Re: Exoplanet discovered in star's "Goldilocks Zone"

SO EXCITING!

I have nothing useful to add to this thread; able pretty much covered all I know. =)
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Old 10-03-2010   #4
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Re: Exoplanet discovered in star's "Goldilocks Zone"

Very, very cool. I heard a bit about this from a friend the other day. Good to have more info on it.

Thanks.
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Old 10-04-2010   #5
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Re: Exoplanet discovered in star's "Goldilocks Zone"

Astronomy is a bit of a hobby of mine but I don't pretend to understand thsi stuff well enough to comment.

I have found a few decent links here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0929170503.htm

here: http://www.space.com/scienceastronom...le-100929.html

more on the radio signal here: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news...-1225710664198
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Old 10-05-2010   #6
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Re: Exoplanet discovered in star's "Goldilocks Zone"

Quote:
Originally Said by ablethevoice View Post
This solar system is old. Estimates of Gliese 581's age say that we're looking at a star between seven and eleven thousand million years of age! Even at the low end estimate, Gliese 581 is already two thousand million years older than our entire solar system! Any life which might be there - depending on when it did start, but let's assume things happened at the same rate as in our own solar system so life appeared about a billion years after the birth of its sun - there could be a rather advanced species there. In fact, given that we are talking about titanic spans of time, there might have been dozens or even hundreds of civilizations which have risen and fallen on the still unknown surface of Gliese 581 g even before our sun was born.
But Gliese 581g would be tidally-locked right?
I sometimes wonder/worry about the development of advanced species on a planet that would only have Earth-like temperatures along the terminator and no seasons.

I just wonder if there's no change from an axial tilt producing seasons and one side of the planet forever basked in sunlight and the other perpetual darkness, would that facilitate the evolution of new species?

-=-=-

I do love a good red dwarf planetary system though. In one of my sci-fi stories, the oldest civilization in the universe (now abandoned) is the birthplace of my most favorite character creation, THE HARBINGER OF STELLAR PROPHECY!

Of course, his civilization (though, as I said, abandoned) advanced well enough along the terminator to produce technology sufficient enough to make all the tidally-locked planets in the red dwarf star system habitable for life on a global level and not just within the planet's Twilight Zone.

And because the civilization and star system are abandoned, I don't have to come up with feasible explanations for that technology as it is no longer in use. =P Unless that Harbinger asshole insists on expounding his knowledge of the subject ;)
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Old 10-05-2010   #7
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Re: Exoplanet discovered in star's "Goldilocks Zone"

Yes G581G is quite likely a tidally-locked planet. If there is one extremely old civilization occupying G, they might have moved underground in an Asimovian "Caves of Steel" approach.
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Old 10-05-2010   #8
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Re: Exoplanet discovered in star's "Goldilocks Zone"

Oh no! That would mean those devious Spacers could be plotting the destruction of Gliese 581G from planets terraformed previously by common ancestors!
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