Monday, June 13, 2005

First Rocky Boy Found Outside Sol System

rocky boy

Another hurdle in astronomy passed: they found a rocky boy.

Astronomers announced today the discovery of the smallest planet so far found outside of our solar system. About seven-and-a-half times as massive as Earth, and about twice as wide, this new extrasolar planet may be the first rocky world ever found orbiting a star similar to our own.

"This is the smallest extrasolar planet yet detected and the first of a new class of rocky terrestrial planets," said team member Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "It's like Earth's bigger cousin."

Currently around 150 extrasolar planets are known, and the number continues to grow. But most of these far-off worlds are large gas giants like Jupiter. Only recently have astronomers started detecting smaller massed objects

"We keep pushing the limits of what we can detect, and we're getting closer and closer to finding Earths," said team member Steven Vogt from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The discovery of Earth’s distant cousin was announced today at a press conference at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va.

The new planet orbits Gliese 876, an M dwarf star 15 light years away in the constellation Aquarius. The “super-Earth” is not alone: there are two other planets – both Jupiter-sized – in the same system. This third world was detected by a tiny extra wobble that it caused in the central star.

From this wobble, the researchers measured a minimum mass for the new planet of 5.9 Earth masses. The planet orbits makes a full orbit in a speedy 1.94 days, implying a distance to the central star of 2 million miles – or about 2 percent of the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Orbiting so close to its star, scientists speculate that the planet’s temperature is a toasty 400 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit (200 to 400 degrees Celsius). This is likely too hot for the planet to retain much gas, like Jupiter does. Therefore, the planet must be mostly solid.

"The planet's mass could easily hold onto an atmosphere," said Gregory Laughlin from UC Santa Cruz. "It would still be considered a rocky planet, probably with an iron core and a silicon mantle. It could even have a dense steamy water layer.”

A paper detailing these results has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.

--stolen with a mastermind's precision from:


Anonymous said...

well i'll fuck a duck. i'm looking forward to when we build the giant ship that takes me away from this hellhole to another place that i can turn into a hellhole. i sure hope we find that place soon. this one is turning mighty bad mighty quick.

Nerveana said...

To Rubber Wall: Cool stuff!

Helskel said...

transporting ourselves to a new environment so we can exhaust it too... is basically what we do.

I've got no problem with it. We're too smart for our own good... or maybe the combo of smarts and opposable thumbs is just too fookin deadly.

Anonymous said...

who's we? that is not a trait of all humans nor does it need to be. it's not our nature, it's a chosen path that is unnecessary. it may not be able to be unlearned, but it was not always there.

Helskel said...

oh yeah, that's we. Not once in our 3 million year hominid past has that not been we.

Exploration is our collective soul.

give a read to a long ago post on this blog "More Editorial!"

Nathan said...

I'm going to buy helskel's "we". To think that we are not an invasive species by nature is to reside in the proverbial cave.

Helskel said...

thank you, nathan

I do think we could benefit by learning to control our invasive nature. But not to the point of dulling that wonderful edge (an edge that has brought us spiritual advances as well as material).

The suggestion is: we stop exploring, we begin eating ourselves.

Anonymous said...

i think i have been misunderstood. all i mean is that there have been many cultures that have learned to live in the world without making a toilet out of it. native americans being the easy example. it is a conscious choice that we make to disregard our part in the natural scheme of things. that is what is unnecessary. i believe that we could explore plenty of new places without continually fucking everything over in the process.

Helskel said...

ah yes. the "noble savage"

"just look at the indians, they lived in utopia before the white man got here"


Not to be rude. But no culture has been self sustaining. And no species has ever "chosen" to hold itself in check. It is other species (virus, multi-cellular or other) that through competition keep a species from exhausting its environment. The current human pathos is due to the fact we have out thought every other species on this planet. Blame the abundance of grey-matter... and more specifically those gripping-hands we carry around. Perhaps it is those thumbs which brought our character in such close connection to the artifact, the tool...and thereby the objectification of power and over-proficient use of the environment.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to shut you down at all, and duly appreciate your contribution to this discussion.

I'm not saying humans should turn into locusts. We are indeed more conscious than that. I just can't get down with the nostalgic looking backward to "simpler" times. Backwards is no way to travel. And the past wasn't any simpler. The only way out of destroying our home and ourselves is to move forward, to keep pushing this grey-matter and keep inventing new ways to live, to push forwards to sustainability. And I don't think humans are meant to streamline that sustainability by staying at home, by staying only on earth. We humans need new places and new drives and new dreams to able to attain perspective and concern and care of from whence we came. We need to spend more time seeking a full replacement for fossil fuels, not just trying to reduce our use of them. We need crops that produce even more. We need miracles, not attonement. I don't feel guitly for people. I feel proud.

The "indians" didn't live in any more of a peaceful way of life than any other culture. They raped and pillaged each other as much as any locale or period of history. True, a good deal of the first humans in the western hemisphere hadn't got all addicted to totalitarian agriculture as the eastern hemisphere did. But these damn innovative heads and hands would have led them that way as well. And already several "indian" cultures were beginning to go down that path. In my opinion, the worst crime we committed against the native americans was treating them as subhuman or like children. They were not innocent, they were not inferior. They were and ARE as terrifying and wonderous as any humans.

Anyway, I just disagree with people who find emotional satisfaction in hating themselves and their kind. It benefits none of us.

The question is not are we bad... but what forward actions can we take to be better.

And personally, I think we are doing pretty good, and making great strides. How else could it be? We're conscious...we're aware that we're aware... and all miracles will follow.

ok.. I'm sure I've made enough of an asshole of myself for a while..


Anonymous said...

whilst this is an interesting conversation, it's getting annoying. i don't think that you are listening, and i can't be fucked typing the sort of response that i feel is required. hopefully we can have this conversation in person someday. i still love you though.

Helskel said...

and there we have one threaded discussion, beginning with

"well i'll fuck a duck."

and ending with

"i still love you though."