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back to article Alien planet is just like EARTH - except for ONE tiny detail

Four hundred light-years away in the constellation Cygnus there lies a G-type star very much like our own Sun. Orbiting it is a world scientists believe is very similar to Earth in both size and composition. This faraway planet, discovered by the Kepler space telescope and so dubbed Kepler-78b, is not a potential second home for …

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Not much of a future

Only 3 billion years? Blimey. Poor diddums planet.

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Re: Not much of a future

It could have been worse.

It could have been knocked into a black hole in a game of Intergalactic Bar Billiards...

... and only score 10 points.

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Re: Not much of a future

>It could have been knocked into a black hole in a game of Intergalactic Bar Billiards...

Neptune Crossing by Jeffrey A. Carver?

What do I win?

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Facepalm

Re: Not much of a future

@The Specialist

"What do I win?"

A copy of the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy...!

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There's science and then there's wild guesswork

I love how these astrophysicists can give us the size, mass, composition and relative position of a very distant object based on a tiny, tiny scrap of electromagnetic data.

If they are baffled as to how such a planet could be where it is, the obvious answer is that their conclusions about the data are wrong.

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Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

And you're the one doing the wild guesswork.

You obviously haven't the slightest idea just how precise our instruments are today, nor the theories on which they are based.

I don't either (not exactly), but I do know that science is way more complicated than I can understand, especially in astrophysics, which is a domain that all of humanity has been studying since the first caveman looked up at the stars.

These exoplanetary mass studies have been going on for a number of years now, and there are enough intelligent people that have been cross-checking them for me not to have the gall to put the conclusions in doubt.

But I am aware of my limitations. Some, obviously, are not.

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FAIL

Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

Put brain in gear before engaging mouth...

For starters, there is a very clear relationship between orbital period and orbital distance, based upon Newton's universal law of gravitation (although in this case, as with the orbit of Mercury, relativity probably has something to say on the matter as well).

That you do not recognise this, or appreciate the impact does not, in any way, make a large number of people who are more educated than you wrong. You therefore earn this coveted fail trophy.

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Happy

Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

I would rather assume our lack of knowledge about how planets form is the obvious answer. As for guesswork, science starts with guesswork, beautifully wild of course. Einstein was exceptionally good at guesswork, most of that is called science to day, How and why he was so good at it is a wild question for more guesswork. There was also this guy with the wild and dangerous guesswork about planets moving around the sun, it took some time to prove.

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Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

Actually I do know quite a bit about the subject since it's a related area to my own area of expertise.

These conclusions (indeed one could argue almost the whole of distant object astronomical science) are based on theories which cannot be proven without spacecraft being able to travel vast distances. Given that the furthest any of our craft have got so far is only just beyond our own solar system (Voyager), one erroneous assumption brings the whole theoretical house-of-cards tumbling down.

For instance a lot of what is surmised about objects in space is based on the principle of Doppler blueshift where the frequency of observed light changes as a result of the movement of a source toward the observer. We know that this is how light behaves over short distances since we can prove it under laboratory conditions. However how can we be sure that once those distances are scaled up to light-years there isn't some other factor that comes into play? Or other unknown and undetected phenomena out there in space have an effect? There is just no way we can test for it with our current level of technology. And if that theory no longer holds true then much of what is surmised about distant space is wrong. I'm not saying that particular theory is wrong, but that's just one example.

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Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

There could be other gravitational forces acting on the planet that we haven't discovered yet. Time may give us a more complete system model on which to better interpret the data.

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Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

"We have this data, but don't really know what it means," is not really a very good story. And boring stores don't get you research grants. Truth be told, the margin of error for distance, mass, brightness and other measures is massive, in comparison to terrestrial measurements. This research is an amalgam of theoretical physics and bit of statistical "looking the other way" on the part of scientists. Don't take my word for it. Just do a bit of research on how we calculate the distance to relatively close stars, betelgeuse, for example, paying close attention to the margin of error. Then apply that same procedure to a galaxy or star cluster that is 100 million times farther away. The statistical error grows massively. But, that's a bit boring.

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Oh I see, it's related to your area of expertise. Well that changes everything then, you're obviously an expert on the subject.

And yet, the only thing you can mention is some pseudo-theory that light might not behave the same over light-years rather than inches ? And because of that pseudo-theory, if you are right, then everything we know is wrong, even though it clearly flies in the face of what every single astro-physicist worth a damn has been saying for the past 50 years ?

Brilliant strawman attack, sir. I salute you. Tell me, you wouldn't be one of those who believes our entire Universe is only 6000 years old, would you ? And your "area of expertise" is what exactly ? Studying prisms and their pretty colors ?

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Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

I don't think we need to question our understanding of how planets form to answer this; all that's needed is a sequence of interactions with other bodies in the system.

In fact, the solution is implicit in the question: if the planet formed further out from its star, as we believe it must have, then what caused it to migrate inwards? The only plausible* explanation is that an interaction with another** massive body in the system disrupted the planet from the stable orbit in which it formed and sent it inwards towards its star. Whilst on its way then, it must have interacted with a third body in such a way to have its course changed for a second time, leaving it in its current orbit. Incidentally, due the the equal-and-opposite etc. the second interaction would have also left the third body in a modified orbit, either moving it further out or further in and if inwards, considering the distances, it probably collided with the star.

Its currently considered highly possible that the bodies in our system didn't originally form in their current orbits: the gas giants in particular are now thought to have been formed much closer to Sol and have subsequently migrated outwards to their current orbits.

* plausible = non-artificial

** There's a small chance it could have been a 'run-away' extra-system body just passin' through.

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Bod
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Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

The issue I have with exoplanets is the conclusions made are based on our only knowledge of planetary bodies we actually can observe, i.e. those within our own system. It's perfectly fine science to conclude because of X and Y observed and what we know about similar planets with properties X and Y therefore it must be the same, but could easily all be blown out of the water by a new discovery. After all, we don't even know what 'dark matter' is and yet it comprises a large chunk of the universe.

The other issue I have is it's all rather pointless as not one will we ever see or visit. The likelyhood is the human race will be extinct long before the time it would take to visit such places and they won't be there any more anyway.

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no one believes the universe is only 6000 years old...Humans have only been around for 6000 years not the universe...dimwit

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

They have to come out with these so called discoveries regularly or else how else do they justify the grants they get....its a gravy train with no proof required....i want some of that action

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Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

Man's laws apply only to man on man's earth, apply man's laws to the universe and it would not last a nano second.

When working with computers that have man made algorithms and not universal made algorithms, man can distort the "numbers" to suit man's needs, plus the added fact that.

The ancient's knew about stars and their cycles without all man's modern technology.

Physics is based on theories and not actuals, hence the "theory of relativity" and not the "actuals of relativity".

Anything always looks good on paper as "time" stands still.

Anyways wouldn't the first logical place to look for another "earth" would be on the opposite spiral tail of our own galaxy?

But that is just too logical.

With the combined knowledge of all scientist that would number into the millions of years (older than man is itself), humans still are no further off explaining the origins of man than they did when man first walked the earth.

Technology has advanced, but man basically has not.

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Headmaster

Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

Put brain in gear before engaging mouth...

Or fingers in this case.

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Trollface

Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

"Put brain in gear before engaging mouth...

Or fingers in this case."

What? Put fingers in gear? That would hurt.

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Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

@marino fail, epic fail, monumentality epic fail. please go away and learn what proper scientists mean by the words hypothesis and theory

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Coat

Re: There's science and then there's wild guesswork

What? Put fingers in gear? That would hurt.

You can do that if you like… should solve a lot of problems with typing something one might later regret as a result of failing to put one's brain into gear instead — there won't be any fingers to do any damage.

Although I predict much swearing and cursing as the voice dictation one might be forced to use as a result found to be inaccurate… not to meniton the irritation of typing with ones toes on a fiddly keyboard. A user interface problem that would leave one rather stumped, I should imagine.

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@: Pascal Monett, Re: Tim Brown 1

Tim Brown 1 made a perfectly reasonable comment. I imagine that the Harvard-Smithsonian astro boffins considered the same possibility before they published their report. Boffins are constrained to use today's theories unless one of them comes up with a better one - at the very least, someone needs to look at how the exoplanet could get into the orbit they say it is in.

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Alien

So....without reading to much into this...

What you’re saying is the folks that built the pyramids, Stonehenge etc were in fact aliens from a planet that was destroyed by the our Sun leaving no trace, and their descendants have infiltrated our race and disguised their lizard features and have controlled the world via the illuminati and the Feemasons , causing the French and Russian Revolutions, the English Civil War, as well as the American war of Independence, and have installed themselves as the British Royal Family and every US president to control us as slaves!!!!!!1!

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Re: So....without reading to much into this...

Seems about right

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Alien

Re: So....without reading to much into this...

Why enslave the human race? You do such a good job of it yourselves :)

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Alien

Re: So....without reading to much into this...

Goodness....where's AManFromMars when we need him (it, whatever)???

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So....without reading to much into this...

AManFromMars has discovered/invented new smart technology (invisibility) and is still flying over Earth in a UFO. That's why no more such sightings recently.

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How do you

Throw a feast for an entire solar system? You BBQ a whole planet, that's how.

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sounds familiar

isn't our own world supposed to be destroyed by our own sun in around 3 billion?

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Anonymous Coward

weighs almost twice as much?

masses almost twice as much, Shirley?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: weighs almost twice as much?

You haven't seen the size of the scales they're using. Astrophysicists really kick ass when it comes to instruments.

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"Perhaps more intriguingly, they say that if there had ever been a Kepler-78b in our solar system - and apparently this is quite possible - such a second Earth would have vanished long ago, leaving no trace for us to find today."

Not saying our understanding of the creation of solar systems and their dynamics over billions of years is lacking, obviously, but were it the case that those models and assumptions are a bit off then, conceivably, such a thing might not have vanished completely yet but be, oooooh I don't know... currently about a million miles out from the star. Just a thought... That would mean, however, that we really don't quite have the hang of this system evolution malarky (understandable) - I mean, when was the last time you heard an astrophysicist say "That's odd - didn't expect to see one of those there" eh ?

Ah.. hang on...

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Im surprised

That after only observing it for an eyeblink in solar timescales they feel confident enough to make the statements they have. Surely its entirely possible that its on the track to fit the models but that they just dont have enough of a interval of watching it to establish the start and end points accurately.

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Re: Im surprised

Indeed - the sample size is still rather small at the moment. That'll improve in time, but currently it's leading to a lot of "how peculiar" comments from the astronomical community... which is one of the reasons why science can be such fun !

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Re: Im surprised

Theoretical physicists are idiots.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Im surprised - "Theoretical physicists are idiots"

And what do you say about people who post non sequiturs?

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Re:And what do you say about people who post non sequiturs?

"That is caused by all the fish in the atmosphere".

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Re: Im surprised - "Theoretical physicists are idiots"

"And what do you say about people who post non sequiturs?"

I don't care if it's not air conditioned as long as it has wood floors.

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That's not the only thing that doesn't make any sense

Like for example, if the solar system is supposed to have coalesced from a cloud of gas and dust, why are the supposed left-overs actually coming in the form of large rocky chunks?

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Re: That's not the only thing that doesn't make any sense

One of my astrophysics lecturers at university was know to describe planets as 'just big dust'.

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Re: That's not the only thing that doesn't make any sense

Is it because when you get that much dust and put it really close together it's combined mass exerts a large enough gravitational force to melt it into a big lump?

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Re: That's not the only thing that doesn't make any sense

I'm not saying it was Aliens ... but those chunks came from Aliens.

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Re: That's not the only thing that doesn't make any sense

@DaM

Thanks for all the downvotes and your own invaluable contribution.

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"It couldn't have formed in place because you can't form a planet inside a star. It couldn't have formed further out and migrated inward, because it would have migrated all the way into the star. This planet is an enigma," splutters Latham's colleague Dimitar Sasselov.

A slight lack of foresight there. Yes it could very well have formed further out and migrated. They just happened to look at it prior to falling into its sun. It's a big universe, look for long enough and you'll see lots of weird stuff, from black holes being formed, stars exploding, stars being born, it's all out there.

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Happy

Discovery

The planet was discovered with the Kepler telescope, not by the Kepler. It's a minor thing, but fairly important, because if it was discovered by the Kepler there have been significant advancements in AI technology that I was not kept apprised of and the person I pay to do that is going to be fired.

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The puppetiers

lost control of one of their farming planets? Or it was their first experiment in moving a planet?

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Re: The puppetiers

Maybe we misjudged the orbital distance because we assumed it was one planet transiting the star, not five identical ones one after the other?

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