Feeds

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 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

"We are now beginning to understand that Nature seems to overwhelmingly prefer systems that have a multiple planets with orbits of less than one hundred days"

I thought it was just our current planet-detection systems that are biased towards short-orbit planets?

7
0
Bronze badge

Still if it is finding them everywhere else and we don't have any here our system is still a freak.

2
1
Bronze badge
Facepalm

I stopped a the word "prefer".

If we are unable to detect the right size of planet, due to our instruments or methodology, then there is no way anyone can extrapolate a preference.

Along those lines, just because our system currently lacks the types of planets we are able to find, doesn't mean that those planets never existed here. Notr can it even imply a preference given the very small sample size.

Consider a sound recording device that only picks up sounds in the range of a bass drum. I use it in my house and find nothing. Then I go to a rock concert and get a recording. Having some success I go to other rock concerts and pick up more. Then, like an idiot, I decide that My home is unique in all of space because it's the only place I've looked that doesn't have this strange sound.

Planet hunting focuses on particular star qualities. Such as ignoring the really bright ones and only looking at those that are edge on. Perhaps these planets don't exist in orbits of "bright" stars. Maybe they only exist on a particular plane.... Point is, there are enough limitations here that making general statements about what nature might prefer only makes the guy come off as an idiot.

1
1
Gold badge
Thumb Up

Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

We're not even at 1% of the speed of light (Voyager 1 at 13Km/s is 0.0043% of C)

Earth engineering has a long way to go before a probe has any serious shot of being launched.

1
1
Go

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

"Earth engineering has a long way to go before a probe has any serious shot of being launched."

That's not actually true. Nuclear propulsion is feasible with today's technology. We could start building such a craft right now, given enough money:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

4
2
Bronze badge
Joke

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

So, from what I am reading, you want to start an intergalactic war by throwing a nuclear bomb at the closest planet that may harbour life.

Let's just hope there is no life there huh, at least none that can fight back.

1
1

This post has been deleted by its author

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

"intergalactic interstellar"

or maybe intragalactic?

3
0
Headmaster

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

Voyager 1 at 13Km/s is 0.0043% of C

Capital C is the SI unit for coulombs, a measure of electric charge. The speed of light is represented by small c.

1
0

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

Back in the late 50s the US (via General Atomics) worked on a project to get a spaceship that could reach .1c, using nuclear explosions. Just googled, the engine was called TRIGA, for which Freeman Dyson led the design team.

Given today's technology, why, we might reach .105c, before the C# code made it blow up.

4
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Gold badge
Boffin

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

"That's not actually true. Nuclear propulsion is feasible with today's technology. We could start building such a craft right now, given enough money:"

This is the nuclear pulse system of dropping "small" nuclear bombs out the back of the vehicle. Obviously with about 50 years improvement in the design software ("bomb codes") we should be able to improve on the design. The bomblet size is just about in the viability range of neutron bombs, which can be quite "clean.". The question is could you use that huge neutron output to ablate a layer of "pusher plate" material while transmuting them to heavier isotopes.

slightly more "eco friendly" is the "starwisp" concept of Robert Forward, using a a mesh of sensors to act as a giant image sensor/processor/power storage/aerial system in a compact mass that could be accelerated to say 100g (that's roughly the speed of light in 3 1/2 days if exposure can be kept up).

My point was that either of these concepts is a long way from deployment. Testing for Orion has some particular problems in this area.

Of course either would revolutionise visits to the outer planets. .

BTW my thumbs up was for the finding of a planet so close, not the rather limited progress we've made to getting there in any reasonable amount of time.

4
0

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

Isn't one of many restrictions to the orion project that the craft would be incredibly heavy. Meaning construction in space. Meaning putting a lot of nuclear weapons in orbit... which frankly no nation is going to be happy about.

China or Russia: "oh you are just putting them all up there to send a probe to another star. Fine. Please do. Don't mind us and our orbiting under construction arsenal of nuclear power sources for our intragalactic probe will you ... we thought it was such a good idea we'd make one too, hope you don't mind"

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

I calculate the energy required to accelerate 1 tonne to 10%c as ~5E20 J. According to Wikipedia the sum of energy release from ALL the nuclear weapons test/uses is ~the same. Now I've not read the details of ORION but something seems amiss.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

> This is the nuclear pulse system of dropping "small" nuclear bombs out the back of the vehicle.

Come the annual Pangalactic MOT inspection, I expect this might fail on the emissions test.

2
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Gold badge

Re: Considering the distances from Earth for the *other* candidates this is pretty close.

"Isn't one of many restrictions to the orion project that the craft would be incredibly heavy. Meaning construction in space."

True IIRC the original version was to support Earth launch. The vehicle weighs thousands of tonnes (compare that to the ISS).

"Meaning putting a lot of nuclear weapons in orbit... "

That's sort of debatable. The "pulse units" as they called were (It's difficult to know given how much is still classified) known were stripped down low yield (140kt, down to 0.1kt) H bombs designed to generate 95% of their energy by fusion rather than fission. I think the plan was to keep the precision triggering hardware (necessary to fire the the conventional explosives) on the vehicle.

It's possible that that in the 4 decades since it's original conception a "fission free" way to build fusion bombs has been found, eliminating the Uranium or Plutonium fall out entirely.

0
0
Facepalm

Great

Now we just need to invent light speed travel and we're sorted once we've finished trashing this planet. Of course we'll have no resources to build hive ships because we'll have used them all up so we'll just be sending 2 people who will have to spend their time trying to create a new civilisation only to discover the journey has rendered them sterile. Glass half empty? Not at all, I poured the contents away and jammed it up fate's posterior a long time ago.

0
4
Anonymous Coward

Re: Great

"Of course we'll have no resources to build hive ships because we'll have used them all up"

Really? You may not be aware of the fact that the Earth is quite large. Even without venturing to the asteroid belt there's actually quite a lot of easily accessible material even by today's standards of technology. The only resources we're in any danger of depleting, fossil hydrocarbons, can be synthesised... we've no shortage of fissile isotopes and sunny deserts, after all. Oh, and maybe helium. Do you need that to make interstellar spacecraft?

It is out biosphere that is at risk from human activities, and you can't build a whole lot of spacecraft from pandas and mahogany so their absense won't affect any future travel plans.

You seem to be confusing fate with a failure of imagination.

8
1
jai
Silver badge

Re: Great

what? you're telling me we won't be able to have panda-fur-lined spaceships?!?!?

12
0
Silver badge

Re: Great

Great. now I have the image of a ship that uses pandas as its reaction mass in my head.

"We need to go a bit faster, fire some more pandas out the back of the ship"

9
0
Windows

Re: Great

That whooshing noise you heard earlier was sarcasm flying right over your head, Merry Christmas, try not to over-analyse it.

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: you can't build a whole lot of spacecraft from pandas and mahogany

Doh. So there goes my design for the upholstery and dashboard.

2
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Go

SETI ?

Would be interesting to know whether the SETI folks picked up anything from there...

0
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge
Happy

Re: SETI ?

There was an other article about the "noise" we produce for the rest of the universe. I wonder if SETI could pic out intelligent life if they used the data we produce.

1
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Re: SETI ?

Or maybe they're going to pickup up something from CETI!

0
0
Bronze badge
Coat

Re: SETI ?

The issues with radio are huge. Consider this:

1. Some wanker finally figures out how to send a radio wave. Everyone rejoices and it goes global.

2. Along the way, someone figures out how to listen to every one else's radio waves. Much gnashing of teeth and clothes rending.

3. Encryption put in place. It's cracked. New encryption developed. It's cracked. Rinse and repeat a few times.

4. Radio still in use; however it appears as random noise unless you have the keys...

5. Radio mostly goes way of dodo in preference for lower power, better targeted, communications.

So what we have is a very brief window of time in which an open broadcast of a radio wave might be recognized as anything other than background noise on the planet. Predicated, of course, that the discovery of radio waves is done by an entity that isnt paranoid. Quite frankly, SETI could listen from now until the end of the universe and never find anything, even if the galaxy was chock full of planets with intelligent life on them.

1
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Black Helicopters

Wait a second ...

Professor Jones ... mathematical models ... fake ... published data sets ...

IT'S A CONSPIRACY!

1
0
Coat

How far away, far far far away

((((186,000*60)*60)*24)*365)*12 = 7.0388352e+13 miles

I'll just get my coat; chat you in a bit

0
0
Pint

Re: How far away, far far far away

186,282.3960 (probably changed since I memorized it) and 365.2425.

PS: ((((No) need) for) brackets).

2
1
Silver badge

Re: How far away, far far far away

What's that in linguine?

0
0
Silver badge
Happy

Re: How far away, far far far away

"What's that in linguine?"

Not sure, but I think there will be enough linguine for seconds all round*

*Assuming a few Tera-swimming pools of carbonara sauce, of course

0
0
Bronze badge
Coat

Re: How far away, far far far away

What's Tera doing in a swimming pool full of carbonara sauce?

0
0

Barbarella found the evil Duran Duran with his positronic ray at Tau Ceti

2
0
Silver badge

I allways wondered ...

why he decided to come back here and form a Pop group.

1
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

Or worse

There is life there, and they've heard the babble coming from our world (OMG they've elected G W Bush as president.. what a bunch of w***ers) and decided if any space probe appears from our direction, they gonna shoot it down.

Or maybe just nuke us from orbit, only way to be sure

1
1
FAIL

Why did they sound supprised about find planets obiting a sun

If my thinking is correct someone along while back thought that there would be little or no chance of other worlds obiting other suns. how rong that theroy was.

1
0

Just position a probe with a large magnetic field near the sun... and wait for a flare.. should get 1 to 2% speed of light out of that.

0
0
Silver badge
Terminator

Given the probable gravity on this planet, its inhabitants are going to be pretty tough (or maybe just pretty squat). They've spent several decades putting up with the trash we broadcast into space during the 20th century. In a couple of weeks time they will discover that we have not, as expected, succumbed to the Y2K bug, so the noise won't stop.

Expect a visit from irate neighbours, probably with tattoos and sovereign rings.

4
0

or maybe

The tech isn't yet quite up to spotting planets further out from their stars.

Just because they can't be seen doesn't mean they aren't there.

Open minds, people!

0
1
Bronze badge

Freakish Earth

"So our solar system is, in some sense, a bit of a freak and not the most typical kind of system that Nature cooks up."

And the presence of the moon--which stabilises the Earth's axis of rotation--makes the Earth an even bigger fluke. Perhaps just one in ten planets have a moon that will do the job. And without a stabilising moon, higher-life forms would struggle to evolve.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Freakish Earth

Stabilise what? They've just found ice at the poles of Mercury which suggests its not wobbled much in, to use an astronomical term, a fuck of a long time, with nothing to 'stabilise' it.

1
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Nothing to stablilise it

Apart from the great big star right overhead,that is...

0
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Up

OK, much for the ticket? This point in the week I can use a good nap.

0
0

what would Kirk say?

Khaaaaaaaannnnnnnn!!!

=:~)

0
0
Bronze badge

Hopefully any inhabitants on said planet are having the same conversation having seen a much smaller planet in the habitable zone around our sun and they too are preparing to launch a probe.

alternatively they already knew about us, and have sent the probe

alternatively still, the know about us and have other pressing matters to deal with or are just ignoring us because we pose no threat.

yet more:

They missed out planet or ignored it as being no threat, AND missed the probe we sent until one day (in the future) it crashes down on their world killing one of their leaders, and a now enraged planet with inhabitants at minimum 5 times bigger/stronger than us, prepare a jump-force to eradicate the puny inhabitants of our world.

even more obscure, they found our two planets (venus/earth) sent a probe to the wrong one, it was destroyed and they do not think our system habours life, however some crazy radio astronomer insists he is receiving transmissions from our system, the only part he can decipher is the beginning beats to eastenders and it has driven him insane...

or

it's just lifeless and dead

1
0
This topic is closed for new posts.