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No signs of life yet

The question of whether life exists on other planets will always remain a curiosity as we continue venturing into space. Movies like "E.T." and "Alien" are just a couple examples of our fascination with such an idea. 

NASA, as our government space agency, is obviously curious as well. But we could be a step closer to answering such questions as NASA has found the first Earth-Size planet in the 'habitable zone' of another star. 

According to NASA, the Kepler Space Telescope found an Earth-sized planet orbiting a star in the habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water might collect on the surface of an orbiting planet -- meaning the possibility of life. 

The new planet has been dubbed Kepler-186f, and it is about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. It orbits a star -- which is classified as an M dwarf, or red dwarf -- half the size and mass of our sun.

Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130-days and receives one-third the energy from its star that Earth gets from the sun. This puts it near the outer edge of the habitable zone. 
 
The brightness of its star at high noon is only as bright as Earth's sun appears about an hour before sunset. Further, NASA isn't quite sure yet, but it believes Kepler-186f's surface rocky.
 

A sketch of Kepler-186f [SOURCE: NASA]

Kepler-186f isn't alone over there, though. It has four companion planets, called Kepler-186b, Kepler-186c, Kepler-186d, and Kepler-186e. They make their way around their sun every four, seven, 13, and 22 days respectively, and they're too hot for any life to exist on them. 
 
Size is key here. While planets have been discovered in the habitable zone before, they haven't been the same size as Earth, which makes it harder for us to understand fully. The four companion planets, for example, all measure less than 1.5 times the size of Earth. Also, previously discovered planets in the habitable zone were were at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth. 

With Kepler-186f being about the same size as Earth, we can have a clearer idea of behaviors, topography, etc. But as of right now, its mass and composition are unknown. 

Unfortunately, whether it contains other life is also unknown at this time. But it's always a worthy consideration when stumbling upon new planets in what are considered "habitable" areas. 

"The discovery of Kepler-186f is a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth," said Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Future NASA missions, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will discover the nearest rocky exoplanets and determine their composition and atmospheric conditions, continuing humankind's quest to find truly Earth-like worlds."

Source: NASA



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RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By delphinus100 on 4/18/2014 11:38:58 PM , Rating: 2
Wanting to know and understand these objects, is only loosely related to the ability to get there personally...

Otherwise we'd never point a telescope at anything outside of our own galaxy.


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/19/2014 12:22:38 PM , Rating: 1
I suppose for curiosity's sake, but the 500 light years quoted for this planet is well within own galaxy, which is 100 000 light years across, so we're not even close to being able to properly explore any of it, never mind other galaxies.

So with the limits of our own planet being pushed ever closer to it's maximum limit, exploring planets and moons within our own solar system to extract resources from will soon be a necessity, not an option and we have the technology to do it.

For instance, since I was talking about water and how we're going to need in badly before the end of this century, there a moon around Saturn (enceladus) that's basically a frozen block of ice several miles thick and it's assumed that the inner core is liquid water, so how about bringing it back to earth?

Another example?....The moon, and it's abundant supply of helium 2 witch only forms when there's no atmosphere and the moon in question has been exposed to the sun for billions of years.....It's the perfect fuel for a fusion reactor that produces way more power than nuclear, and has no used fuel that's radioactive to store.

And we're just sitting here and looking at stuff that's impossible to reach anytime soon?...Seriously?


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By vXv on 4/19/2014 1:46:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
For instance, since I was talking about water and how we're going to need in badly before the end of this century, there a moon around Saturn (enceladus)


There is more then enough water on this planet .. its salt water? So what? We have the technology to make drinkable water out of it (and its being done already in some places) ... and it is way more reasonable then mining water from billions of kilometers away ...


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/20/14, Rating: 0
RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By SPOOFE on 4/20/2014 2:55:21 PM , Rating: 2
You're really concerned that we're gonna drink up all the oceans? We'll need a bit more than ten billion people to accomplish that, even if we were specifically trying to.


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/20/2014 8:11:00 PM , Rating: 1
Did you see the new horizons disaster a couple of years ago, leaked oil for over 2 months before it got sealed up, and only 15~20% of the oil got recovered while the rest is god knows where, and killed a lot of local species in those waters.

The list goes on and on with accidents on the oceans, crap dumped into them from untreated sewers, and that big garbage pile in the north pacific doesn't inspire confidence:

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

You seriously want to drink this water?


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By kypd275 on 4/20/2014 11:23:45 PM , Rating: 2
Cleaning up/purifying those water is about infinitely more doable/practical/cheaper than trying to haul water from Saturn's moon. What are you going to do it with, your magical unicorn space freighter?

Logic, please have some.


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/21/2014 1:05:33 AM , Rating: 1
True, but it would mean drinking water that was heavily polluted for decades and now being forced to drink this because we're out options and hope that the stations that clean it are good enough.

Countries are already broke enough with massive debts and I'm sure they'll love spending billions on those treatment stations....The ones in Dubai cost 4 billion to turn seawater into drinking water.

It's only the build price of an aircraft carrier and Dubai is just a small emirate....Now imagine doing project like that that covers the entire USA's needs.

Suddenly space unicorn is looking better isn't it?


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By Schrag4 on 4/21/2014 1:13:25 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, I think we could stretch our drinkable water out quite a bit if we stopped doing stuff like this:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/17/portl...

Shadow, I hate to be the one pointing this out, but it seems clear from your posts that you think everyone is stupid/crazy except you. You don't seem to have much of a grasp on how figures scale, like population, land area, costs, etc. For instance, if it cost 4 billion to purify seawater for 2 million people, and if that cost would scale perfectly (it wouldn't), it would cost a "mere" 600 billion to cover the entire US. I think that's probably about 100 times cheaper than your space unicorn that would somehow transport enough water for the entire US all the way from Saturn's moons, year after year.

It's almost as if you've watched a few dozen videos produced by environmental activists without actually thinking any of it through for yourself.


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/21/2014 10:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
As I said earlier, there's 1 billion people going hungry and that also is difficult to get fresh water, So what would another 3 billion do?

Let's stretch that even further into the next century and who knows how many we may be by then, and still having one the earth as a home....At some point, the planet reaches a breaking point and gives humans the proverbial finger...


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By Schrag4 on 4/22/2014 9:53:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
At some point, the planet reaches a breaking point and gives humans the proverbial finger


Yet another astonishing revelation - how can you possibly believe this? If the planet can't naturally provide enough food and fresh water for 10 billion people, how do you expect the human population to reach that number? And if by some magic (your unicorn again?) we were able to feed 3 or 4 billion more people than we had food for temporarily, would all of humanity die off once the magic wears off? Of course not.


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By kypd275 on 4/22/2014 1:39:16 AM , Rating: 2
Wait, billions to do what's actually possible to do is too much for you, but spending what would likely be hundreds of billions or most likely tens of trillions or more to try to do something that is quite possibly centuries beyond our current technology is better?


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By Labotomizer on 4/20/2014 12:27:41 AM , Rating: 2
Why is it always a "this not that" answer with people like you? Kepler wasn't very expensive, expands our knowledge of the universe which is good for all of us. Private companies will worry about targeting other planets to strip resources as the technology develops.

NASA account for less than 1% of the entire US budget. Worrying over them "spending too much money" is about the most idiotic thing to do. They have their issues, as they're a government agency, but what they do is critical to the future of humanity. Perhaps more-so than any other function of government at this point.

As for "we don't have the technology" that's a bad reason to stop looking for places that we could possibly go when that tech develops. Keep in mind 100 years ago it was thought breaking the sound barrier was impossible, rockets out of our atmosphere we science fiction and we just start flying prop planes. Another 500 years? 1000 years? People need to stop thinking along the lines of "it won't happen in my life so it's not important".


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/20/2014 8:23:23 PM , Rating: 2
Planets were found where one In particular is just 12 light years away.....Now it is 7 times the size of the earth, but is earth like with a high potential of liquid water and being rock based (not a gas giant).

It's much closer and more likely to be reached when technology improves in the next decades or centuries....500 light years, not so much and we already have near 200scover0 planets discovered so far in the last 20 years, so how many more do we need to discover that we can't reach?


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By kypd275 on 4/20/2014 11:26:57 PM , Rating: 2
Without FTL travel, there is little practical difference between 12 LY and 500LY.

Also, who died and made you boss to decide that these research can only be used to find planets we can go to anyway?


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By shadow002 on 4/21/2014 12:56:34 AM , Rating: 2
Even without FTL travel,12 light years can be covered in about 120 years with Ion engines already being tested right now.....500 light year is you guessed it, a 5000 year trip one way.

Slight difference wouldn't you say? ..With further improvements to ion engines, they can reach half the speed of light, so the trip gets knocked down to 24 years to get to that 12 light year planet.


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By Griffinhart on 4/21/2014 5:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
Your numbers are over the top optimistic.

First, building any sophisticated technology that can run for 5000 years is probably a bit impossible. Remember, 5000 years is pretty close to how old the first written language is. I'm sure we can build something that will last 50, 60 maybe a hundred years, but 5000?

Ion thrusters that are being tested can, theoretically, get a craft to hit top speed of about 110,000 mph (50 kps) That would mean that 12 light year trip would take over 73,000 years.

Given Ion Engines can't currently reach even 2ths of one percent of the speed of light, I have serious doubts as to ever hitting half light speed (a 3050% speed increase)


RE: Deep space is useless for now.
By kypd275 on 4/22/2014 1:49:02 AM , Rating: 2
Over the top optimistic is a massive understatement.

It would actually be much longer, as you would also have to add in the time and distance it'll take to decelerate.

Ion Engine that can reach 1/10th the speed of light, already being tested? The rest of the world would like to know where that is (and what you're smoking, because it's obviously some real good stuff).


By shadow002 on 4/20/2014 1:04:59 PM , Rating: 1
We still don't know everything there is to know about the earth even though we're living on it, despite all the eq uipement we have, never mind knowing what a planet 500 light years away is like with just telescopes.


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