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back to article Worlds that could support LIFE found among 715 new planets

Boffins working with the Kepler space telescope have verified the existence of 715 planets in what is the project's largest mass-discovery to date. "This is the largest windfall of planets, not candidates that has ever been announced at one time," said Douglas Hudgins, exoplanet exploration scientist for NASA's astrophysics …

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Did they check

that the observations were simply wonky at a subset of the stars, that are then imputed to have multiple planets?

I do so much want not to be disappointed!

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Are any of the earth-sized planets NOT tidally locked?

I know that, in theory, if the atmosphere is thick enough it can even out the temperature difference so not all water ends up perma-frozen on the night side, but tidally locked planets still do not strike me as good candidates for harboring life. Or colonies.

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Re: Are any of the earth-sized planets NOT tidally locked?

I don't think you've fully appreciated the science being used here.

"Verified" does not mean "seen". They know the planets are there by the way they effect the star they are orbiting, but there is no data about basic things like planetary rotation or atmosperic composition at this point.

Given that we haven't even put people on Mars yet, it's probably a little early to worry about colonisation of favourable exoplanets.

You're talking about moving house from London to Sydney by walking before you're capable of walking to the end of your own garden.

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Re: Are any of the earth-sized planets NOT tidally locked?

I think maybe you don't fully appreciate the science being used here. The periodicity of the "dips" in the stars output can be used to determine not only the size but also the orbit of the planet. So far all detected Earth-size planets have orbited red dwarfs, and orbited the star so closely that they are tidally locked.

As for colonizing: it is time to start talking about visiting as soon as we've identified an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone around an M-class star, and because of the enormous distance and cost involved in a visit, we might as well colonize immediately. That it wont happen in my lifetime is no reason to not start the planning.

However, until now we've not found any such planet, and my question was if there were any in this latest batch.

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Re: Are any of the earth-sized planets NOT tidally locked?

"we might as well colonize immediately"

Immediate colonization is not the way to go. You just send one bloke. He needs to sport a long white dress and a beard.

When he comes back and you're getting all the transport organised, the existing inhabitants will argue, bicker, and fight over said bloke.

By the time you've got everything packed and returned, they'll have got so hot under the collar about their contrasting opinions that they'll have wiped themselves out long ago.

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Not suprised

I've long believed that the odds of our solar system being somehow special were pretty slim. This just gives me a bit of confirmation of what I already suspected.

Also, with all those planets out there that could potentially support life as we know it the odds that we're alone in the universe are getting smaller and smaller all the time. If only the nearest neighbors weren't so far away.

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Seems to be a mistake here...

...as the strongest conclusion that can be drawn from the facts reported here is that "Many stars have planets and some are similar to the Solar System in having planets in orbits that allow them to have liquid water".

Anything more is specious, seeing that the average habitable zone planet is reported to be 2 - 2.5 times the size of Earth. That doesn't sound much like the Solar System to me: Earth is the biggest of our habitable zone occupants, so saying that anything with planets of this size is "just like our Solar System" is pretty much bollocks.

In short, the astronomers *may* have said what El Reg reported, but I doubt it: the report reeks of having been sexed up by PR flacks and, probably, then rewritten at least once by whatever general purpose hacks got their hands on it after him.

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Anonymous Coward

Here's hoping

That the aliens turn up, sooner rather than later.

Hopefully of the "OMG free energy and room temp. superconductors" sort not "Kaboom boom boom did someone order the 5000 megaton instant sunshine surprise" sort.

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Re: Here's hoping

Don't forget the teleporters and Star Trek replicators.

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Pint

Star gazing ain't what it used to be...

...it's unbelievably better! When I were a lad it was taken as gospel that (optically) the stars amounted to zero dimensional point sources - with a nice big 'scope you could collect more photons and so do some spectroscopy but you would never resolve anything like a disc. Let alone see planets orbiting that disc. Let alone be talking of doing spectroscopy of the atmosphere of those planets. Bloody (marvelous) witchcraft, this.

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This discovery is fundamental, thank you science!

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Pity Kepler didn't survive longer

to find a planet, Kepler needed to see at least 2 transitions of the planet in front of it's sun. Given that Kepler didn't survive even two years, there is zero chance that it could have found a planet in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. The planets it found were either around suns with lower mass than ours, or in a very low orbit.

Just a few more months of measurements would have made such a big difference. Anyway - even with the limited scope, it was still a great success, of course.

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Re: Pity Kepler didn't survive longer

Not sure why you would make this claim. Kepler hasn't failed completely and is in the process of being repurposed, and the results published so far are on the first two years of four years worth of data - the second two years are expected to yield similar results. Check out:

http://www.universetoday.com/109764/mega-discovery-715-alien-planets-confirmed-using-a-new-trick-on-old-kepler-data

for more detailed info.

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Re: Pity Kepler didn't survive longer

> Kepler needed to see at least 2 transitions of the planet in front of it's sun. Given that Kepler didn't survive even two years

It needed three transitions for verification, and it survived four years. This means that there are "New Earths" in the data, but according to the article there's so much data to process that they're still on year two, and the "New Earths" will start appearing in year three.

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Thumb Up

You want planets?

We've got planets!

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Gravity??

I'm no expert but wouldn't a planet twice the size have a much higher force of gravity, therefor making everything on it rather heavy.

Anyone here about to work out the physics side of something twice the size of earth?

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Re: Gravity??

Depends on density and composition I would say - is it all rock, all gas, or somewhere in between, a 2.5x rocky planet is likely to have higher gravity, but a gassy one far less.

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Re: Gravity??

I recall watching a documentary once that hypothesized that potential humanoid life on such planets would probably have much denser molecular structure than we do. Should such a humanoid travel to Earth, (let's say in some kind of spiky egg shaped craft to escape the imminent destruction of their 'larger than earth' home planet), then the humanoid would be potentially faster than a speeding bullet, or even more powerful than a locomotive. Cant remember the name of the documentary though...

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Re: Gravity??

Depends on its composition. How much iron is in its core vs lighter elements?

With a similar composition to Earth the surface gravity of a planet in the habitable zone with twice the mass is roughly 1.3Gs - but could easily vary 0.2 Gs either way depending on composition and possibly more.

Note density increases as planet mass increases for the same composition.

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Re: Gravity??

lol very good :)

There is potential for that sort of thing to some extent. Adjusting to a higher gravity world and moving here would make things somewhat easy. You'd probably be a fair bit stronger than "average". Again though, countless possibilities :)

Even scale is overlooked.

I have a tiny water flea colony in the top of my fish tank. They work the "fields", moving algae spores across the inside of the lid - they keep it damp for adherence. They construct round "nests" they seem to sleep in. They seem to have babysitters, a handful of adults directing lines of children while most of the others work. Some seem to work on the little bit of moss that touches the water. It crosses my mind that even on the miniscule scale, what passes for "society" can evolve. Who knows what scale science is looking for for confirmation, or how easily they will spot it :)

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Drake equation

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

The Drake equation is:

N = R* . fp . ne . fl . fi . fc . L

where:

N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which radio-communication might be possible (i.e. which are on our current past light cone);

and

R* = the average rate of star formation in our galaxy

fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets

ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets

fl = the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some point

fi = the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations)

fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space

L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space

so fp seems to be 1,

ne seems to be what 1 in 10 maybe?

So hopefully N is non-zero - we're getting closer...

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Fermi Paradox

Although I want N to be a Non Zero number you do have to wonder "Where is everybody?"

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Re: Fermi Paradox

Good point, if there is intelligent life out there, then where is it, it's either ocean bound (with flippers so they can't build anything) or there just isn't any need to have technology in their society, or there may not be any intelligent life out there at all, we may be very much an anomaly.

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Re: Drake equation

The only Aliens you're ever going to see, are the ones from Hollywood.

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Re: Drake equation

All of those numbers are likely large, except perhaps "fi". We have in the region of a dozen species on the planet who can be considered intelligent (e.g. elephants and orcas) but only one group (the apes) developed the use of tools* (and perhaps even more importantly, language). In our 3.5 billion year fossil record (where there undoubtedly are hundreds of other arguably intelligent species) no other group ever developed the use of tools.

Technology, in other words, is much, much, more unlikely to evolve than intelligence.

The galaxy may be teeming with intelligent life -- and we may very well still be the only technological civilization.

* yes I know about crows, but the demands of flight limit their brain sizes, making them unlikely to develop technology beyond "catch the worm with the stick" or a language more advanced than "warning! leopard!".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fermi Paradox

"Where is everybody?"

Hanging out together laughing at the primitives like us?

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Re: Drake equation

Only one big problem there - your content.

Assumption, followed by assumption, followed by assumption. Based on a large number of assumptions, you can come up with any number you feel like. Of course that number won't make any real difference. Given the age of the universe, the rate of star formation goes out the window - as any of the "advanced civilisations" described by your "formula" has the potential to migrate, thus breaking your "formula".

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Re: Fermi Paradox

Bearing in mind man has barely managed to explore his own planet (and frequently discovers new species even after all this time), you'd be holding your breath for a very long time.

No point assuming :)

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Re: Drake equation

We have MPs over here. I think most of those are inhuman lol

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Re: Fermi Paradox

> "Where is everybody?"

Oh I'm sure there's many who'd like to mess with the origin of the great Terran Empire, to nip it in the bud as it were, but that's what we got the Space-Time Service for!

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Alien

Re: Fermi Paradox

"Where is everybody?"

After pulling some numbers out of my making estimations of a scientific nature, based on these findings: using fairly large numbers (except for R* which shouldn't really matter) I mostly got non-zero but less than 1 results.

"The universe is infinite, by definition. Therefore there are an infinite number of planets. If only a fraction of those planets have intelligent life, and a proportion of infinity is itself infinite, then there is an infinite amount of intelligent life. It is, however, infinitely far away."

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What a load of old cr@p, I bet most of these so-called habitable worlds are as dead Brighton in January.

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And next months press release....

Astro boffins have discovered <RND(0)> new habitable planets.

Cut and paste following into press statement '"These results establish that planetary systems like our own solar system are in fact common."'

Next months millions of funding secured. Job done.

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Gravity?

So what if the gravity is higher than Earth's gravity. Research this: "The Ascension of Man". The Earth has already ascended into the fifth dimensional counter part and is waiting for man to raise his vibrational frequency to it's level. Soon, man is going to ascend into a fifth dimensional "Light" being that will be able to travel in space with the speed of thought. We won't weigh anything, so gravity will not effect us. Also we will become immortal. We live in exciting times.

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Facepalm

Re: Gravity?

Nurse, the tablets, QUICKLY!

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Pint

Care to visit our closest exoplanet?

You would have 160 000 years of travel at the speed of space shuttle ahead of you. Our closest exoplanet is 4 light years away. And when you get there, or more correct your grand, grand, grand... children arrive, the exoplanet's star may have stopped supporting life.

As an exoplanet could have had life, it has life or life may not have started yet.

And if you believe anyone of these newly discovered exoplanets are better destinations - some of them are as much as 3000 light years away. So a text warning of failed exoplanet mission would take 3000 years to reach Earth.

We have an estimated 5-20 million years left with our own star able to support life on Earth. Enjoy.

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Go

Re: Care to visit our closest exoplanet?

"We have an estimated 5-20 million years left with our own star able to support life"

So, we have about 2 Million years to improve our Tech to travel elsewhere? Have you seen what we've done in the past 100?

Challenge Accepted!

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solar lifetime

Straight from NASA:

(http://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/ask/a10395.html)

A star like the Sun has about 11 billion years of life before the white dwarf stage. It has already gone through 4.5 billion years so that leaves about 6.5 billion years give or take a few hundred million!

So... just a tad longer than your 5-20 million years - no need to pack quite yet.

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