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back to article Boffins spot planet that could support life... just 12 light years away

An international team of astroboffins have discovered that the nearest single Sun-like star has one planet orbiting in the sweet spot for potential alien life. Image generated by Stellarium software showing Tau Ceti in the constellation of Cetus on from Hatfield, UK Tau Ceti, which is just 12 light years away and can be seen …

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Alien

Looks like Pete Cooke

I was wandering around on the surface of Tau Ceti III in 1985. Admittedly, I was doing this on a ZX Spectrum.

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Re: Looks like Pete Cooke

Did you train at the Academy?

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Re: Looks like Pete Cooke

Man, if ever there was a game deserving of a high definition like-for-like remake, it'd be this one.

I always found it amusing when I was six that I could send a spaceship out by typing "lunch" as a command. =p

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Anonymous Coward

Not sure I want to go there.

Plateau didn't seem like a very nice place to live especially if you weren't Crew.

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Alien

Re: Not sure I want to go there.

Downbelow was nice enough as long as you remembered your breather mask.

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Thumb Up

Re: Not sure I want to go there.

Housing could be a problem sometimes though if a lot of visitors turned up.

I've also never been entirely happy with station environment facilities being maintained by creatures who don't breath the same atmosphere and have a tendency to wander off and spend several weeks doing nothing but thinking of sex :)

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Not sure I'd even go to UK

and it seems to be able to support life and is only a 20 hour flight from here.

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Linux

Unhappiness with station environment facility staff

It's always the way, isn't it? The younger generation misunderstood by the old.

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Alert

Re: Looks like Pete Cooke

Damn, beat me to it!

12 light years? If we start now we might get there before the end of the world. Oh, wait ......

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Now all we need is...

Some egghead to come up with a way to get a space probe there before I die.

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Re: Now all we need is...

and back again, I presume.

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Re: Now all we need is...

It doesn't need to come back again.

We will however have to settle with watching 12 year old telemetry.

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Ping Time

24 years latency makes for interesting communication. Asimov or Clarke etc had a short story about it. Just talk and don't worry about a two way conversation.

I wonder what the calling channel is and what kind of modulation?

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Re: Ping Time

> 24 years latency makes for interesting communication.

Frustrating, certainly.

"Hello, this is Earth. It's getting a bit crowded. Is there any room in your particular inn?"

....1 year, 2 years, 3 years, .... 24 years

"Sorry, could you repeat that? I've the kettle on and didn't quite catch it"

> Just talk and don't worry about a two way conversation

I've a workmate that does that. It's worse than no communication at all.

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Joke

Re: Ping Time

"Just talk and don't worry about a two way conversation"

That sums up my general attempts at being social (in hindsight)

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Go

Re: Ping Time

I would say that it is within the scope of our current tech to get an autonomous probe there which could at least gently crash and send back a squawk of data about surface, atmosphere etc. before being smashed by the indiginous chimpanzee analogues...

Not sure how long it would take to get there (certainly much more than 12 years), and we'd have to wait another 12 years for the reply, but that's not a problem, is it? Voyager and Pioneer have been out there for decades and are still going. We'd need to kick our probe a bit harder than those to get it to Tau Ceti in anyone's lifetime, but they were tasked with looking at stuff on the way out, whereas this probe would be more single-minded.

Maybe send half-a-dozen: how about the next X Prize?

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Re: Ping Time

we should outfit them with warheads just in case the planet has life

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jai
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Re: Ping Time

If it is habitable, that means it could be already inhabited? How much is that going to piss off the natives if we slam a probe through their atmosphere? Have to hope they haven't got FTL drives otherwise their invasion fleet will arrive here before we get the response from the probe warning us of the huge intergalactic faux pas we've committed.

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Boffin

Re: Ping Time

"24 years latency" - so, not quite as bad as Talk Talk boradband then?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ping Time

The fastest probes we've built are going roughly .004%c. Assuming we could do 10 times better if we put our minds, backs, and bank accounts to it today, that's about 2500 years to get there.

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Headmaster

Re: Ping Time

"...intergalactic faux pas..."? No, merely an interstellar faux pas.

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Boffin

Re: Ping Time

The fastest probes would be about 70Km/s, a light year is about 9500000000000 Km, which would take about 4,300 years (@70Km/s), so obviously it would take over 50,000 years to get there.

I don't think our "current tech" is up to the job!

There really is absolutely no point in sending anything physical there yet, because even if it takes 400 years to build something 1% faster we could send it in 400 years from now and it would overtake the first one (and get there 100 years earlier), build something twice as fast and it saves 25,000 years, really you'd need to build something capable of 10% the speed of light to be approaching practical speeds, which of course you'd need to accelerate to, decelerate from, have fuel onboard for both, even ION drives have fuel, most of the mass of the craft would have to be fuel (capturing fuel would slow it down more than it would gain), and of course it gets hideously complex as the mass changes (down as you burn fuel, up as you approach the speed of light, down more as you burn fuel to slow down, and decreases faster as you slow down) - and don't forget to steer, there's no way you could see let alone predict everything that could be in the way, and an ION drive may not be ale to turn the craft fast enough, conventional fuel? I don't thnk so!

We need completely new technology (some kind of space compression warp drive, so the physical distance becomes less) to travel that sort of distance, or we need to solve many, many other problems.

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Re: Ping Time

> I've a workmate that does that. It's worse than no communication at all.

A female one? If I remember correctly, in that short story the (male) scientists got the idea from observing a pair of women talking.

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Re: Ping Time

> A female one?

No, a male. He's very good at Taekwondo too, so I can't even tell him to shut up.

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Re: Ping Time

But those bastards crash their stuff into our world and they abduct our women and have sex with them.

I'd say they're long overdue for a bit of payback.

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Re: Ping Time

One would hope if they've got FTL, they can spot a primitive probe crawling towards them at subluminal speeds before it slams through their atmosphere.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ping Time

completely new tech agreed .. as outlined here in this paper

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20110015936_2011016932.pdf

very interesting stuff .. long way off of course but seriously cool nonetheless.

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Devil

Re: Ping Time

Death by snoo snoo

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Re: I've a workmate that does that

Does Bob work over there too?

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Anonymous Coward

Quote "The potentially life-supporting world has a mass around five times the size of Earth, making it the smallest planet found in the habitable zone of any Sun-like star. The other four planets are between twice and six times the mass of Earth."

Try again, it doesn't make sense! How can a planet 5 times the mass of Earth be the smallest planet? When you acknowledge the 'four other planets' are between 2 and 6 times the mass of Earth.

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It does make sense

Try reading it again.

The 'four other planets' aren't in the habitable zone.

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simples - the other planets are not in habitable zone.

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Headmaster

Planet size....

"The potentially life-supporting world has a mass around five times the size of Earth, making it the smallest planet found in the habitable zone of any Sun-like star. "

/pedant mode

Erm..... Aren't we on an earth like planet in the habitable zone of a sun like star, which makes this one the smallest planet?

/off

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It does make sense

Wrong. In order to be the "smallest" planet there needs to be more than one.

"The other four planets" would be the other planets in the habitable zone. This article has made no reference to planets which are not in the habitable zone. The whole point of the search is to find habitable planets.

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Stop

Re: It does make sense

Are you deliberately trolling, AC?

The article *clearly* says:

Tau Ceti, which is just 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye in the night sky, has five planets in orbit around it, with one lying in the habitable zone.

and:

The potentially life-supporting world has a mass around five times the size of Earth, making it the smallest planet found in the habitable zone of *any* Sun-like star.

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Happy

Mass 5 times that of earth

I'm not up to the maths involved right now, but with similair density to Earth that's at least 2-3G surface gravity. But then again... if Earth's survival is in peril, any port in a storm

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Re: Mass 5 times that of earth

I can hear the missus already : "You B*s£$%%, take me home now, I don't care what it's like, you've dragged me all the way here and made me put on 36 stone"

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Re: Mass 5 times that of earth

Assuming the same density as Earth I make it about 1.7G

Radius is the cube root of the mass 5^0.333 = 1.709 times Earth

G is then the mass divided by the radius squared - 5 / 1.7 ^ 2 = 1.73

That's not going to be comfortable long term but would do given nothing better.

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Re: Mass 5 times that of earth

Humans would adapt to 1.7G given time. You'd probably want to gradually turn up your artificial gravity on the trip there though.

On the plus side, you'd have fun coming back to earth for a visit (if such a thing were ever feasible)... not like those poor guys who went to Mars and are now spindly weaklings.

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Habitable zone != actually habitable

The definitions of 'habitable zone' vary, but Venus is sort of in our system's habitable zone. Personally, I wouldn't want to try inhabiting it! Hot enough to melt aluminium? Appalling pressure? There are more factors than distance-from-sun that determine habitability.

Impressive use of telescopic gadgetry though.

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Go

Re: Habitable zone != actually habitable

But it is harder to actually study all that from all the way back here. So all they can really say is there is a planet there that "might" be habitable if the other 10 squillion things that need to all meet in one place and dance have actually turned up.

And then it is only for "life as we know it, Jim" and not all the other possibilities that we have not thought of.

Time for this planet to draw up it's "prime directive" before we get to the stage of interactions I think.

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Happy

Re: Habitable zone != actually habitable

Habitable zone for life but not for us as we would be something like five times heavier on that planet. I would not like to try that.

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Re: Habitable zone != actually habitable

Exactly.

"It's one small step for... oops there goes my femur"

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Re: Habitable zone != actually habitable

Not five times heavier - the planet being larger, its centre is further from the surface, and surface gravity has an inverse square relation with that distance.

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Mushroom

Re: Habitable zone != actually habitable

Also assumes it's just one planet and not a planet with a moon or multiple moons.

The wobble technique wouldn't be able to distinguish moons if they were there.

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