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jayfish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 07:02 AM
Original message
Astronomers Find Rocky Planet Outside Solar System
Edited on Wed Sep-16-09 07:06 AM by jayfish
Source: AP

WASHINGTON Astronomers have finally found a place outside our solar system where there's a firm place to stand if only it weren't so broiling hot.

As scientists search the skies for life elsewhere, they have found more than 300 planets outside our solar system. But they all have been gas balls or can't be proven to be solid. Now a team of European astronomers has confirmed the first rocky extrasolar planet.

Scientists have long figured that if life begins on a planet, it needs a solid surface to rest on, so finding one elsewhere is a big deal.

"We basically live on a rock ourselves," said co-discoverer Artie Hartzes, director of the Thuringer observatory in Germany. "It's as close to something like the Earth that we've found so far. It's just a little too close to its sun."

Read more: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gHZc0...



...and just wait until Kepler goes fully live. It's a brave new universe.

Jay

Edited to add Kepler Mission link
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itsrobert Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 07:22 AM
Response to Original message
1. Life needs solid land to survive?
Tell that to all the fish in the ocean. Why can't some sorta life form live in a gas environment?
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MannyGoldstein Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 07:27 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Perhaps a rock planet is needed to support the water
Gas planets probably wouldn't have pools of water, I'm guessing.

This is a totally cool discovery.
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katkat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 08:47 AM
Response to Reply #2
11. gas planets
Gas planets tend to be hellholes in terms of temperature one way or the other, and their atmospheres are tasty stuff like hydrogen and methane.
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shadowknows69 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 09:13 AM
Response to Reply #11
14. There are lifeforms on our world that live in environments of extreme temp and pressure.
The life we have found miles deep in the ocean exist in pressure that can crush steel, yet they appear to be the frailest of beings (worms, deep sea fish etc., plants).
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jakeXT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 08:16 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. They are looking at Jupiter's moon Europa for life in water
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katkat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 08:44 AM
Response to Reply #1
10. dolphins
So if rocks are needed what about the dolphins/orcas, etc., apparently as smart as we are if not smarter (I've never seen a dolphin wearing a GOP button.)
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immoderate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 05:32 PM
Response to Reply #10
22. All sea going mammals are descendant from land animals.
They all have vestigial signs of "foot bones" in their fins depending on species. Mammals developed on land.

--imm
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shadowknows69 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 09:10 AM
Response to Reply #1
13. I think that's a bad assumption for a scientist too
Obviously that's what life like ours needs and would be what we'd look for first, but fairly narrow minded IMO.
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DRoseDARs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 09:27 AM
Response to Reply #1
15. This article is just another example of why non-scientists shouldn't write science articles.
A more intelligent way of putting "needs solid land" would have been to bring up tidal regions. Current thinking is that when life was forming on Earth, it was in the tidal regions that it formed. With water rushing in and out over the area, carrying with it minerals and compounds, the tidal regions provided the perfect environment for complex molecules to form, leading to life. Does that mean that life can't form in the turbulent atmospheres of gas giants? We can't know until we find such life.
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TheMadMonk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 12:38 PM
Response to Reply #1
19. Too many skipped steps methinks.
  1. Life needs certain elements (in adition to the basic carbon, oxygen, nitrogen & hydrogen).
  2. These elements tend to "precipitate" out during planet formation.
    • On a large gas giant these elements will be sequestered away in a core blanketed by liquid if not metalic hydrogen.
    • A small gas giant such as Uranus or Neptune has a water ocean thousands of miles over these esential elements.
    • At the other end of the scale ice/water worlds may lack significant quantities of these essential elements.
  3. Only a "rocky" world where gaseous atmosphere, liquid hydrosphere (which brings into play distance from star and temperature) and a rocky lithosphere made up of the heavier elements come together in the same zone is life really possible (or at least likely).

Fish et al may exclusively inhabit the hydrosphere but there is strong interaction between that and the air above and rocks/sand/mud below. Land creatures BTW carry their own hydrosphere internally.

In even the smallest of gas giants the atmosphere and lithosphere are so completely isolated from each other that life in such a gaseous environment is virtually impossible.

Chances are lack of mixed gasses would make life at the bottom of a 100's of km deep ocean on ice worlds such as Europa unlikely as well. Dependent of course on whether or not there is any ongoing outgassing from whatever mineral core might exist.


I strongly suspect that the basic parameters for a planet to be hospitable to the development of life are pretty much those of the Earth plus 100% or minus 50% roughly speaking. Atmospheric pressure, ocean depth profile, mineralisation of hydrosphere, temperature, etc. Compositions would be the most variable factor requiring only that the necessary elements are all available in the one place.

It is only once life gets a toe hold that evolution adapts life to more and more extreme environments. But for it to begin, conditions would have to be relatively mild and average (for given values of mild and average not at all pertinent to today's conditions).
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Posteritatis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 01:16 PM
Response to Reply #1
20. Oceans might as well be solid land when you're talking about planets. (nt)
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Uben Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 07:34 AM
Response to Original message
3. Life can survive on gas alone
Scientist have discovered a new species, assholius republicana, that lives off the gases spewed by such anomalies as Joe Wilson, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.
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bejamin wood Donating Member (62 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 08:15 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. Heh
Good one.
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AlbertCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 08:41 AM
Response to Reply #3
9.  assholius republicana, that lives off the gases
Y'mean it's alive????

I thought they were fossils.
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Soylent Brice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 08:11 AM
Response to Original message
4. K&R
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chalky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 08:28 AM
Response to Original message
7. So now the IBSERHSFA campaign can REALLY kick into high-gear.
Edited on Wed Sep-16-09 09:26 AM by chalky
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pleah Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 08:36 AM
Response to Original message
8. K& R
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NinetySix Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 09:06 AM
Response to Original message
12. Perhaps it's where the Raptured will go... none too soon!
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damntexdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 09:52 AM
Response to Original message
16. Then where's the accompanying Bullwinkle planet?
And the Boris and Natasha moons?
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Mr. McD Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 11:31 AM
Response to Original message
17. What ever happened Gliese 581 c & d?
They were once considered to be the first earth like planets found. :shrug:
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and-justice-for-all Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 11:48 AM
Response to Original message
18. There has been 300+ extra-solar planets discovered...
mostly gas giants, better as new tech comes on line and methods for finding extra-solar planets orbiting distant stars are replaced with better ones, we will find planets within a habitable zone.

An Earth like planet, or one within the habitable zone, has already been found.
http://www.planetary.org/news/2007/0425_Most_EarthLike_...

So this rocky discovery is not surprising.
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paparush Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 01:25 PM
Response to Original message
21. Sounds perfect for the Tea Baggers and the Lunatic Fringe eom
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NeoConsSuck Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 10:17 PM
Response to Original message
23. First rocky planet found outside solar system
Source: CNN.COM

(CNN) -- Scientists have discovered the first confirmed Earthlike planet outside our solar system, they announced Wednesday.

"This is the first confirmed rocky planet in another system," astronomer Artie Hatzes told CNN, contrasting the solid planet with gaseous ones like Jupiter and Saturn.

But "Earthlike" is a relative term.

The planet's composition may be similar to that of Earth, but its environment is more like a vision of hell, the project's lead astronomer said.

It is so close to the star it orbits "that the place may well look like Dante's Inferno, with a probable temperature on its 'day face' above 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,000 degrees Celsius) and minus-328 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 200 degrees Celsius) on its night face," said Didier Queloz of Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, the project leader.


Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/space/09/16/new.rocky.plan...



This really boggles my simple mind. How one side of the planet can be 3600 degrees Farenheit, and the other side is -328 degrees below zero. So what would the midpoint be? 72 degrees and sunny? :)
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Ian David Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 10:17 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. No atmosphere to conduct heat. Just like Mercury.
Edited on Wed Sep-16-09 08:13 PM by Ian David
Surface conditions and "atmosphere" (exosphere)
Radar image of Mercury's north pole
Size comparison of terrestrial planets (left to right): Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars

The mean surface temperature of Mercury is 442.5 K,<3> but it ranges from 100 K to 700 K<45> due to the absence of an atmosphere and a steep temperature gradient between the equator and the poles. The subsolar point reaches about 700 K during perihelion then drops to 550 K at aphelion.<46> On the dark side of the planet, temperatures average 110 K.<47> The intensity of sunlight on Mercurys surface ranges between 4.59 and 10.61 times the solar constant (1,370 Wm−2).<48>

Despite the generally extremely high temperature of its surface, observations strongly suggest that ice exists on Mercury. The floors of deep craters at the poles are never exposed to direct sunlight, and temperatures there remain below 102 K; far lower than the global average.<49> Water ice strongly reflects radar, and observations by the 70 m Goldstone telescope and the VLA in the early 1990s revealed that there are patches of very high radar reflection near the poles.<50> While ice is not the only possible cause of these reflective regions, astronomers believe it is the most likely.<51>


The icy regions are believed to contain about 10141015 kg of ice,<52> and may be covered by a layer of regolith that inhibits sublimation.<53> By comparison, the Antarctic ice sheet on Earth has a mass of about 4 1018 kg, and Mars' south polar cap contains about 1016 kg of water.<52> The origin of the ice on Mercury is not yet known, but the two most likely sources are from outgassing of water from the planets interior or deposition by impacts of comets.<52>

Mercury is too small for its gravity to retain any significant atmosphere over long periods of time; however, it does have a "tenuous surface-bounded exosphere"<54> containing hydrogen, helium, oxygen, sodium, calcium and potassium. This exosphere is not stableatoms are continuously lost and replenished from a variety of sources. Hydrogen and helium atoms probably come from the solar wind, diffusing into Mercurys magnetosphere before later escaping back into space. Radioactive decay of elements within Mercurys crust is another source of helium, as well as sodium and potassium. MESSENGER found high proportions of calcium, helium, hydroxide, magnesium, oxygen, potassium, silicon and sodium. Water vapor is present, being released by a combination of processes such as: comets striking its surface, sputtering creating water out of hydrogen from the solar wind and oxygen from rock, and sublimation from reservoirs of water ice in the permanently shadowed polar craters. The detection of high amounts of water-related ions like O+, OH-, and H2O+ was a surprise.<55><56> Because of the quantities of these ions that were detected in Mercury's space environment, scientists surmise that these molecules were blasted from the surface or exosphere by the solar wind.<57><58>

Sodium and potassium were discovered in the atmosphere during the 1980s, and are believed to result primarily from the vaporization of surface rock struck by micrometeorite impacts. Due to the ability of these materials to diffuse sunlight, Earth-based observers can readily detect their composition in the atmosphere. Studies indicate that, at times, sodium emissions are localized at points that correspond to the planet's magnetic dipoles. This would indicate an interaction between the magnetosphere and the planet's surface.<59>

More:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_%28planet%29#Surfa...

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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 10:17 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. Now we just need to find a Bullwinkle planet
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SlingBlade Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 10:17 PM
Response to Reply #23
26. Cool, Save me a spot :)
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