back to article Water found on extrasolar planet

For the first time ever, water has been conclusively identified in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. The presence of water on another planet is a groundbreaking discovery, and has fuelled hopes that one day we will find life somewhere out there. Water is widely regarded as being an essential ingredient for …

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Why water?

Why are scientists so fascinated with finding water on these distant planets? If the normal guy walking these street was in charge of these things, we'd be looking for planets with vast seas of lager, bitter, and/or ale. Hopefully, these planets would be inhabited by scantly clad warrior maidens looking for fat, hairy, flatulant men to help repopulate their homeworld. This would also, in effect, see a massive increasing in funding for interstellar travel as half of Britain pre-booked a seat. A win-win situation, I think you'll agree.

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Anonymous Coward

Exciting!

Well, this is exciting news, but I'd also like to point out the difference between "an extra solar planet" and "an extra-solar planet"...

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Moron

"Hopefully, these planets would be inhabited by scantly clad warrior maidens looking for fat, hairy, flatulant men to help repopulate their homeworld."

So stupid!

What do you think those scantly clad warrior maidens are gonna drink???

WATER!

This proves it's easier to detect water than warrior maidens on the surface. A surface for water will help us narrow down the search for warrior maidens! Get your priorities straight!

;)

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No no no...

Water? To find the presence of women?

Surely they should be looking for the presence of atoms of a hitherto undiscovered element called 'Jimmy Choo' (Symbol on the periodic table: £, atomic mass 999.99 when measured at Harrods)

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gaz

race

and the race is on. My money is on McDonalds setting up there first with Starbucks a close second and then Tescos building on the rest of the planet.

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Life's Essential Ingredient

Water is the essential ingredient to life. Ever notice how you feel much better and have much more energy when you drink water instead of nasty soda pop?

Some of the most beautiful scenes and refreshing scenes in nature involve a magnificent display of Water. Waterfalls, Streams, lakes and oceans, are amoung a few that capture our attention and foster our imagination.

I am a devout believer in creation and God's control over all. A discovery like this confirms his vast reach into areas that we have just barely began to explore.

http://www.forestwander.com

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Tim

Conclusive?

"The researchers, led by Dr Tinetti, found that the planet absorbs the starlight in a way that can only be explained if it has water vapour in its atmosphere."

Only be explained with current knowledge, but given we really have no direct observation of all these planets outside our solar system we really are clutching at straws based on the limited things we know about the universe.

Whilst these are the most likely explanations, I'd hardly say it's conclusive.

I'm not totally convinced these planets are actually 100% planets. They're just "probably planets based on what we know".

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Anonymous Coward

lordy

"I am a devout believer in creation and God's control over all"

Funny that, as up to 100 years ago, "God"'s followers were the ones preventing us from seeing any of the kind of stuff which science now allows us to see. Knowing about this planet would have meant burning at the stake.

IMHO, in the unlikely event that a god exists, it prefers science to religion any day. At least science is remotely interested in the idea of truth, heh...

Anyways, aren't religious types supposed to be humble before their god's creation? Contrast your Assumptions about "god" and "his vast reach" with the poster after you: "They're just "probably planets based on what we know""

Scientists assume nothing and always approach a subject with an open mind. That's why I listen to them and not the bible.

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Conclusive.

Well, if the light from the star shows the absorption spectrum for water vapour when the planet passes in front of it every x days, that sounds reasonably conclusive to me.

Please brush up on your spectroscopy if you remain unconvinced - it's only A-level stuff.

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"lordy"

In my experience it's the scientific type that typically quote science as fact.

I personally am a firm believer in God, and am very much along the lines of the post above yours when it comes to the world around us...

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Silver badge

Re: lordy

'"God"'s followers were the ones preventing us from seeing any of the kind of stuff which science now allows us to see.'

Such a statement pre-supposes the existence of God (you can't follow something which doesn't exist), yet you then say that the existence of a god is "unlikely". Furthermore, there are many different groups who claim to follow God and yet have completely different ideals and attitudes. Lumping all of these groups into a single category is an incredibly simplistic and small-minded approach.

"Scientists assume nothing and always approach a subject with an open mind. That's why I listen to them and not the bible."

Then you're clearly not approaching theology (or other sciences) with an open mind. Modern scientific method is based on a very skeptical framework -- one of the requirements of it is that you take any data source not based on direct observation -- including the claims of other scientists -- as suspect until you can observe the same data under the same conditions. Such an approach is designed to minimize the possibility of incorrect conclusions, but it also specifically precludes the determination of information which cannot be determined and/or controlled by physical means. Therefore, limiting your view of existence to the scientific view assumes a purely physical existence. If you believe that, fine, but you must at least recognize that it is an assumption, and therefore suspect under the terms of the scientific method.

Myself, I'm an agnostic, and I welcome all perspectives on this issue as a means to enrich my understanding (I particularly like Richard's perspective -- and to answer Joe Cooper, the maidens would drink the lager/bitter/ale, thus facilitating their attraction to fat, hairy, flatulent men.)

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It's called 'Physics'.

Tim:

""The researchers, led by Dr Tinetti, found that the planet absorbs the starlight in a way that can only be explained if it has water vapour in its atmosphere."

Only be explained with current knowledge, but given we really have no direct observation of all these planets outside our solar system we really are clutching at straws based on the limited things we know about the universe.

Whilst these are the most likely explanations, I'd hardly say it's conclusive.

I'm not totally convinced these planets are actually 100% planets. They're just "probably planets based on what we know"."

One of my best friends worked on this project for years, he moved his wife and infant son to Paris to do so. He turned down lucrative offers domestically to move to a country where he didn't speak the language becuase his Ph.D allowed him to prove exactly this kind of thing.

My point:

We can say absolutely that the planet has water molecules on it due exaclty to DIRECT OBSERVATIONS and this IS conclusive. Based on what YOU know, they might not be planets, based on what SCIENCE knows, they are, peer-reviewed and triple-checked. Physics don't lie, they are the fundamental laws by which we navigate through our lives, on a Newtonian-scale, we understand the Laws of Nature quite well. It is only when things are very large or very small that we have to abstract them in order to begin to understand them.

Sure, I will conceed that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is manipulating our minds into thinking we are seeing water, but to what end? If we don't start cluthcing at straws, what is the point of life anyway? If the Church tells us how to live, where is the Free Will to sin in the first place?

There are many things that I, you and Science do not know. Knowing what we do not know is the difference between crackpot quasi-intellectual statements about Moonbeams and crystals and hard science.

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Embarrassed

I hope that we as humans never find intelligent life anywhere in the universe. It will such an embarrassment to explain that we have "evolved" for tens of thousands of years and are still killing each other to prove that which cannot be proved... whether one religion or god is more real or correct than another.

Yep, As a species, we should be embarrassed and ashamed. I hope that we destroy this planet and ourselves along with it before we have the chance to infect the rest of what ever (other) life that my exist in the universe.

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water content of alcaholic drinks

water is the main component of of most alcoholic drinks. probably the equipment isnt sensitive enough (yet) to pick out lambrini from babysham. only stout has thus far been eliminated. ;)

as for religion vs science, its a question of data matching the model. just because a scientist from a few hundred years ago was wrong about... say.... the orbit of mercury, doesnt make the whole of science wrong, it just requires a revision of the model.

the religious establishment fought the round-earth-helio-centric lot for a long time, saying that this "wrong" data didnt match thier dogmatic model. for most people this model has now been revised.

religion doesnt prove religion in general wrong any more than religion can prove sceince wrong. ie the existense of a god cannot be proven or disproven, and disproving particular religious axioms does not disprove religion any more than disproving a scientific theory disproves science.

hows about the global warming denyers/scaremongers as a modern example?

ultimately science is just another religion.

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Silver badge

Not definitely conclusive

'Fraid this isn't simple A-level spectroscopy. The astronomers construct mathematical models of the chemistry and physics occurring in the planet's atmosphere, from which they make predictions about the changes in the light curve of the star + planet during an eclipse. If the predictions match the data: ‘Bingo!’ But errors in the model, or indeed the data, could lead to a false +ve. And more head scratching or data may cause the boffins to change their opinions.

Look at:

http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0611174

it's by Giovanna Tinetti and details the background to the predictions about HD 189733b. It may even be the paper in question.

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Anonymous Coward

Moron3

What we're dealing with here is hot stuff. A planet-size sauna no less. Which means all the scantily clad warrior maidens will have abandoned their skimpies long ago. Have you seen a beach recently?

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needs silicon for sandy beaches... :)

as for skimpies, in the long shot that all the females are like the ones kirk was snogging all the time... no skimpies = saggy bits... :(

and with the planet being so close to their sun, they'll probably have a tan*, which means they'll get arrested at the spaceport when you try get your mail order** bride home.

*or be green, and/or have an accent

**mail order = interplexing beacon, obviously.

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Tim

Speed issues

See this is the other thing I find odd. A lot of these planets are huge super giants rocketing round at crazy speeds in very close orbits. This goes contrary to anything we've directly observed about planets.

And no Josh, observations via orbital wobbles, gravitational lensing and spectroscopy isn't direct observation. It's the extrapolation from data used to prove a hypothesis in the same way we have 'proof' of black holes even though we've never seen one, or prove the existence of dark matter on the basis of unexplained missing material in the galaxy based on mathematical calculations.

Point is, with current science what we see in the data leads us to a likely probability, but not it's not absolutely conclusive.

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dont bother

I think you will find that on closder examination the Germans already have their towels on it.

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Errr...

There's water on the sun, does that mean there's life there as well?

http://solar-center.stanford.edu/news/sunwater.html

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Search for life

This might get me in trouble but i'm fed up with people expecting all life in the universe to be water and oxygen loving carbon based life forms. While we have come a long way in the last few hundred years, we know pitiably little about the universe. Yes, it’s a better bet to look for life that conforms to our ecosystems as we know it can exist, which makes looking for other styles of life forms pure supposition. But our inability to conceive what other possible life form types there are does not mean we can label an area of space as incapable of supporting life. Please, I beg of you, adjust your terminology to “cannot support life as we know it” as opposed to “cannot support life”

</rant>

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Joe Cooper

>What do you think those scantly clad warrior maidens are gonna drink???

Water? It was always Mad Dog when I were a lad.

But that was Rochdale.....

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re : Lordy

Steven: some comments ...

Firstly, the word "God" was enclosed in double quotes - a very clear sign that the writer did NOT believe in God. Such a statement does not as you say "pre-suppose the existence of God" - obviously it does exactly the opposite.

Secondly, what the hell is THIS supposed to mean : "specifically precludes the determination of information which cannot be determined and/or controlled by physical means" ? What other means IS there ?

Finally, I am not at all surprised to find you are an agnostic, as any other position would require you to form an actual opinion.

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