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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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Nah Nah nah na na na nahhhhhhhhhh

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That sort of distance

That's a hell of a task, to aim a probe that can travel anywhere fast enough to reach the destination in a human lifetime, navigate the vastness of space on it's own, after all once you get past a certain distance it's not like you can tell it to change direction at short notice.

Then you need to get it to decelerate to a reasonable speed in order to actually be of any use.

Maybe if data teleportation can be used in order to perform instant communication with the probe, but I don't think we can make things work that way yet.

I wish I was smart enough to be able to contemplate working on that sort of project.

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Damn

Shame Poul Anderson didn't live to see this.

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It's two planets

Their names are Anarres and Urras--just read LeGuin's The Dispossessed.

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Arthur C Clarke

Well, after things like geostationary satellites etc perhaps ACC has another prediction coming true ... in the last of the Rama novels the Rama spaceship ends up in the Tau Ceti system where it rendezvous with "the node" where "samples" of intelligent life from that region of the galaxy are have been taken to.

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five planets?

Ceti (Alpha) 5?

KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN !!

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why didnt we check this one 1st?

Its the closet after all. Surely we someone should have checked this one before now?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: well, it's out of the closet now

and it looks like its got a well endowed habitable zone.

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My take on the thing

Clearly this planet has long held life.

Their first probe was nuclear powered and landed on our tiny planet long ago. Sadly it spun out of control shortly before impact, and - because of it's massive size (coming from a planet 5 times bigger than ours) - wiped out the dinosaurs (and much of everything else).

Now we've become that planet that they never visit, because they feel a bit guilty about the whole world-wide-destruction they caused. A bit like that friend you have, where you once broke a vase, and now feel a bit guilty everytime you go to visit.

Official Message to Aliens:

It's okay! We don't mind you killing the dinosaurs, they were taking up our lebensraum! Come visit - and bring space-babes

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Alien

So its a planet in a habitable zone....

With gravity that is about twice Earth gravity--and we don't know what the composition of the atmosphere is, whether it has a magnetic field that protects the inhabitants from nasty cosmic rays and radiation, or if there is a moon of sufficient size to make coastal areas habitable in the face of otherwise hundreds of feet tsunami-sized tides (or if there is liquid water so that there are tides at all!).

Interesting, but I'm not prepared to jump on the first transport off mother Earth just yet.

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Alien

Consider the inhabitants.

They've evolved in a 5g field.

Short, squat and very strong.

Like a race of very hard Ronnie Corberts.

Be afraid.

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Happy

Re: Consider the inhabitants.

I was thinking something crab-like, but Hard-Corbetites is good too!

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"We can't send things to other places Really Really Fast."

Bollocks.

We've never tried. Voyager is (technologically) about eleventy billion years old. We can do better today. The best part is, we don't even have to work all that hard. We need to build something with A) A bitching power supply and that can B) survive crazy acceleration.

Then we use a great big honking set of chemical rockets (Flacon Heavy?) to shoot the widget into space and strap a whole pile of other chemical rockets to it. We fire the thing in the general direction of Jupiter and go for the gravity assist bonus. Do your maths right and you can whip around Jupiter picking up all sorts of speed, while aiming in the general vicinity of Sol.

The real trick is to get the ++fast grav bonus from whipping around the sun targeting Wherever It Is You Want To Go. You coast along until you get about ¾ of the way to your target. Then you turn on your Really, Really, Overpowered Ion Drive and decelerate for all you're worth. With luck, the drone not only passes through the target system, but might even have slowed down enough to put it in some really oblong, comet-like orbit of that system's star.

At 12 light years away, we might even be able to get the travel time down below 500 years. That's not too bad; and something I think our descendants would appreciate. Wouldn't it be nice to leave them something? We've fucked up everything else…

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Unhappy

Re: "We can't send things to other places Really Really Fast."

The best part is, we don't even have to work all that hard. We need to build something with A) A bitching power supply and that can B) survive crazy acceleration."

The first part is much easier than the first. The classic example being the Sprint ABM for terminal defense with its 100g acceleration (Breaking M1 less than 1 sec after launch). Given the huge strides in integration putting significant capability into a small package is quite feasible (although they probably can't operate during launch). But to get to light speed you'd need to keep that up for 3.5 days.

Trouble is Voyager at 13Km/s is 0.0043% of light speed. I mentioned Robert Forwards Starwisp idea and I think that's the closest to being feasible. It could be done if we wanted to do it right now. The engineering is tough but the physics is known. Orion is a longer term option partly due to feasibility (you don't get this in a mini size) and of course the politics.

There is also the "Icarus" follow up study to the British Interplanetary Societies "Daedalus" plan to explore Bernards Star. That however looked at mining Jupiter for reaction mass to get something like 10% of c.

In IT a factor of 10 000 improvement does not seem unrealistic (clock speeds, network speeds, memory density have all gone up by these amounts). But outside this area most improvements are measured in %. It's a very different game.

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Re: "We can't send things to other places Really Really Fast."

"Voyager at 13Km/s is 0.0043% of light speed"

For the last time, we weren't trying to get Voyager to interstellar speeds. We were trying to use it to take pictures of our own back yard. You don't need Orion to get something up to interstellar speeds. You might if you had people on board - though we'll debate the "pink smush factor" of Orion later - but we don't need to go from a dead stop to interstellar in one go.

So long as your widget can survive crazy acceleration for a brief time, you can slingshot outside the system. You need some truly BITCHING chemical rockets to do the initial boost towards Jupiter, but once around Jupiter followed by one around the sun should give the object more than enough speed to truly crush all speed records and head out into interstellar space.

Such a designed object would whip past Voyager quite quickly, leaving that probe behind as the slowpoke it is. Again, Voyager's speed is not indicative of the fastest we are capable of going. It is indicative of the fastest we are capable of taking pictures of our own solar system at using 1970s technology. If we just want to fling a widget into the yonder at high velocity, we have the technology for it.

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Alien

Terrestrial broadcast signal propagation...?

So, how long are we talking, then, before any possible inhabitants at Tau Ceti receive the first season of Gilligan's Island?

(ohh, I weep for the spirit and the soul...)

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Re: Terrestrial broadcast signal propagation...?

Um...it's 12 year lag. We're currently sending them the beginning of the reality TV failwagon.

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Happy

Re: Terrestrial broadcast signal propagation...?

"Um...it's 12 year lag. We're currently sending them the beginning of the reality TV failwagon."

So prepare for the retaliatory strike arriving in around 2024

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'Just' 12 light years away

OK, I know it's in the stellar back yard but 'just' makes seem like we could be there by lunchtime. Well, lunchtime in a million or so years. On the plus side, we'd have time to evolve to a reduced gravity environment on the way and time to evolve gravity support structures again as the gravity was turned up on approach supposing anyone could remember why on they were hurtling through inter-stellar space.

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Anonymous Coward

space is big and boring

funny how Scifi people have quietly ignored the mars rover thing and now want to spend everyone's money on something similar but further away . Probably with he same result , dull uninteresting updates that come in at coma aping 24 year intervals.

All the usual suspects should pay for this stuff instead of wasting money on spock fancy dress outfits for conventions.

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Thumb Up

With NASA working on Warp drive again, maybe we will be sending a probe out within our lifetimes!

I love the fact that we live in a world where Scientists are looking for life and ways to go see it!

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