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back to article Earth-like planets abound in red dwarf systems

The nearest Earth-like planet that could support liquid water may be much closer than first believed, according to new research by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "We thought we would have to search vast distances to find an Earth-like planet," said Harvard astronomer and lead author Courtney Dressing in a …

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Alien

Re: But

I have already signed up for the one way mission to mars. Just think of it, all my posts to the reg could be delayed between 6 and 40 minutes. Now I expect all of you to send them a fiver to get me off the planet.

http://mars-one.com/en/donate

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Boffin

Tidally locked?

I've a vague memory of reading that as the habitable zone around a red dwarf is relatively close in, any planets are likely to be tidally locked - like our moon is to the earth - and surface conditions rather harsh. Not exactly conducive to the development of higher life forms, though a higher life form with a sufficiently advanced technology might be able to survive by building settlements on the edge between the hot and the cold regions. Though they'd probably have to put up with some wild weather.

Presumably there are Reg readers who know a great deal more about these things than I do - does anyone have anything to add?

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Re: Tidally locked?

That's extremely likely and a tidally locked world creates a far narrower area of habitability. However, consider the possibility of a planet orbiting a gas giant which in turn orbits the red dwarf. It wouldn't necessarily be tidally locked, and it would be protected from the flares which often fire from red dwarf stars by the immense magnetic field of the gas giant.

The night sky would also be something else.

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Re: Tidally locked?

I think there's also the issue that plant life (as we know it) would not be able to survive on a red dwarf planet, due to the star's lack of output in the violet/UV end of the spectrum. (Try growing plants under nothing but halogen lights, which approximate a red dwarf's light quite well.)

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Stop

Re: Tidally locked?

"I think there's also the issue that plant life (as we know it) would not be able to survive on a red dwarf planet, due to the star's lack of output in the violet/UV end of the spectrum. (Try growing plants under nothing but halogen lights, which approximate a red dwarf's light quite well.)"

Err...what's the problem with that? Our plants evolved to gain energy from UV wavelengths because there's a lot of it and its yummy. There is no biological or physical reason than *other* plants can't evolve to slurp up red wavelengths that are half those of UV.

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Re: Tidally locked?

Try growing plants under nothing but halogen lights...

And expect a visit from the drug squad.

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Re: Windows won't sell in advanced civilisations

I do wonder why you put 'joke alert' as the icon for this post.

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Angel

Re: Windows won't sell in advanced civilisations

Because otherwise wild commentards would downvote it? Oh wait...

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Angel

just 13 light years away

Just 13 huh? We'll be there next week! Seriously saying "just" when dealing with light years is like saying saying a "small battleship".

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What does the Admiral Graf Spee have to do with interstellar distances?

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Coat

"What does the Admiral Graf Spee have to do with interstellar distances?"

I think you'll find that was a 'cruiser'.

*cough*

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Coat

Härter rangehen, Manfred! FEUER!!

But if you go that far, a "battleship" does not actually exist, as the name comes from a perversion "a ship of the battle line". Do we need it to be wooden, too?

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Don't know about the Admiral Graf Spee, but Tirpitz and Bismarck were referred to as "pocket battleships".

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Pocket Battleships

Tirpitz and Bismarck weren't. Graf Spee, Deutschland/Lutzow and Scheer were.

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Thumb Up

It was referred to one unofficially, but was 'officially' a cruiser because it was 'officially' under the 10,000t limitation imposed on the Kreigsmarine by the treaty of Versailles.

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Paris Hilton

Entropy: Big Problem!

They are red.

How about some photosynthesis? That's gonna be a tough one.

I suspect that there is no solution in nature to using long-waveish light to construct useful stuff, otherwise it would exist right here, would it not?

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Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

Maybe, but not necessarily. It might be a competition problem - maybe organisms that photosynthesize red can appear, as long as red is all that's available so there are no other higher-energy organisms around.

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Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

Chlorophyll absorbs in the red spectrum too. You might expect to see forests on a planet orbiting a red dwarf star to have black trunks and white leaves, for example.

I don't think that such solutions would necessarily exist here. You don't need carbon to build a lifeform, it's possible to do it with other materials such as silicon, but we don't see silicon-based lifeforms on earth.

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Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

Yes. Visible red is still much short wavelength ( i.e. more energy) than thermal i.r., so on the physics/thermodynamics sdie you may well be correct. On the options for alternative biochemistry - who knows

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Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

Aren't there deep sea planktons and whatnot that photosynthesise through red light as it's the only stuff able to penetrate that far down?

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Holmes

Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

> photosynthesise through red light

Physically impossible due to Quantum Mechanics, it should.

But there are organisms that use

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phycobilisome

in order to harvest bluish light that penetrates water and re-emit it a lower but more interesting frequencies, it seems. Any specialists?

Actually, I found this:

"However, purple bacteria perform photosynthesis with NIR radiation and produce no oxygen, and lichens do not have a strong red edge. Scientists still puzzle over why plants are green, because it seems this wastes the light where our Sun produces the most energy."

http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/kiang_01/

So it might work.

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Alien

Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

No, red light can barely make it to 10m. There's still a little blue light at 200m. Below that, it's dark. That's why the fish that live down there, the ones that even have eyes, also have bioluminescence.

(I'm a diver).

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Happy

Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

Ever noticed some seaweeds are red not green ? Thats because, the UV and even the blue and green light is not available a few meters under the sea. Nature adapts. Even here on earth we have photosynthesis that can use much lower wavelength and engery EMR than UV....

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Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

Ever noticed some seaweeds are red not green ? Thats because, the UV and even the blue and green light is not available a few meters under the sea. Nature adapts. Even here on earth we have photosynthesis that can use much lower wavelength and engery EMR than UV....

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Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

You seem confused.

If something is red, that means it doesn't absorb red light, that's why it's red - it's reflecting those frequencies back at you and therefore not making use of them.

It absorbs the other frequencies, precisely the ones you don't think it does in fact, blues, greens etc, and uses them to drive its energy cycle because they ARE the ones available a few feet down.

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IT Angle

Re: Entropy: Big Problem!

Neat! Learned a little bit about deep sea marine photosynthesis this morning. Not bad for a tech website.

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Lemme know...

"Slow-burning stars may host civilizations far more advanced than our own"

May not.

Lemme know when you actually find something. And it doesn't have to be a Dyson sphere under construction, either. Just anything artificial.

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Pint

Re: Lemme know...

It's statistically infeasible that there *isn't* anything smarter than us out there.

So much so that if we could prove today that we are the only intelligent and advanced life in the universe, it would be the best argument for the existence of a creator god that I've ever heard.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lemme know...

You're saying that your belief that we aren't alone is an argument against the existence of god?

Prove that we aren't alone.

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Pirate

Lemme know if you agree ... or are stuck in a mindset with a past present indicative subjective

There are no ifs, buts or maybes to introduce doubt whenever one realises slow-burning intelligent stars and intelligence tsars host civilizations far more advanced than your own view of the universe and its makeup. And they are always making contact.

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Facepalm

Re: Lemme know...

"You're saying that your belief that we aren't alone is an argument against the existence of god?"

No. Where the hell are you pulling that from? Of course it's not. You just made a massive illogical leap to reach that conclusion. Not everything exists as a dichotomy, you realise? Just because I radishes are red, everything that's not a radish doesn't have to not be red.

"Prove that we aren't alone."

That's kind of the point: We can't. However, if the universe is infinite and we ARE alone, then by very definition, our unique existence is an artificial mathematical abnormality, isn't it?

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Happy

Re: Lemme know...

Like a ring world ?

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of course

All this assumes that they are even interested in finding out if we exist. We are a very selfish species, we assume if something is intelligent it has to be intelligent like us. We don't think (well obviously some of us do cause I just thought it) that there might be an intelligent species somewhere that looks up at the sky and goes meh...so what?

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Re: Meh, so what...

One of the leading drivers of intelligence is curiosity. If there was a species that went around going "meh, so what" at everything, they wouldn't be around for long, nor be particularly intelligent.

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Trollface

Re: Meh, so what...

quote: "If there was a species that went around going "meh, so what" at everything, they wouldn't be around for long, nor be particularly intelligent."

You mean like teenagers? Sounds a lot like teenagers to me. Also a lot of adults to be fair: "why are they spending my tax money researching X when they could be doing something else with it?" usually then explained as increasing something they directly benefit from e.g. the NHS, or education funding for their kids, rather than funding something that has a small chance of benefitting the entire species (and, to be fair, quite a large chance of turning out to be economically worthless). There's not a lot of point having highly educated people but no research posts left for them to occupy...

What would be a "critical mass of apathy", and how would you measure it in society as a whole? How can we check to make sure we are not the species that goes "meh, so what" then goes down in a blaze of apathy?

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Re: Meh, so what...

Thankfully, no individual member of the species is a teenager for very long, and the period of childhood before and adulthood following the teenage years makes up for the shortfall.

That said, if we continue to dissuade our young from individual thought and experiment, by using education systems designed to meet targets rather than encourage learning, then we could well become "the species that goes "meh, so what" then goes down in a blaze of apathy".

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We need to work on ways of getting there

Preferably within my lifetime.

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Dinosaurs

why would a civilization need to be "advanced" to be worthwhile. I would be more interested in finding the Dinosaur planets tbh.

Imagine a spaceship the size of a 10 storey building landing on a planet full of animals the size of 20 storey buildings. Would that not rock your socks?

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FAIL

Re: Dinosaurs

It'd rock your socks if you were on that spaceship.

"Oh, look! A big, fat, juicy bug!" *crunch crunch crunch crunch*...*uuuurrrppp!*

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Alien

Re: Dinosaurs

You should pitch that idea to 2000AD.

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Unhappy

Imagine if we are the most advanced thing in the universe....

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Alien

Enter the dDragon ..... AIDenizen of Total Control

Imagine if we are the most advanced thing in the universe....... Mussie (Ed) Posted Thursday 7th February 2013 22:56 GMT

Yes, just imagine it, Mussie (Ed). You'd be absolutely defenceless against SMARTR Probes and HyperRadioProActive Sorties into Command and Control Nerve Centres and SCADA Operating Systems, methinks, and that extraordinarily renders opportunity to the vulnerability and delivers a valuable esoteric stealth and priceless anonymous commodity for global export to important markets.

And it would be extremely dangerous and immediately self-defeating to try to resist and counter with a dedicated denial of server service attack whenever remote slave master control for leading powers on Earth is so primitive and reliantly engaged in deceitful sub-prime activity for ignorant arrogant advantage.

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Anonymous Coward

Could be even simpler

I expect that planets orbiting red dwarf stars would be tidally locked.

Such a planet might have a very thin habitable area around the rim, with a permanent ice age on one side where all the liquid water went, and a Venus-like area on the "hot" side.

Habitable planets with nice big Moons that as a result tend not to be tidally locked and have a reasonable climate could be very rare indeed, explaining why we have had no results from SETI yet.

The latest theory for the origin of the Moon is that it is a KBO similar to Pluto, that migrated inwards during the formation of the planets under a one time fluke chance encounter with Theia, the "planet" that ended up giving the Earth its iron core and most of its mass.

Somehow it avoided hitting the Earth and ended up in orbit.

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