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A newly discovered exoplanet may support life ... but don't pack your bags yet

20 light years from Earth slumbers the red dwarf star Gliese 581.  Today a team of astronomers announced an astonishing discovery-- the star has a planet which is potentially habitable by humanity.

Over 200 so-called "exoplanets" -- planets outside our own solar system -- have already been found.  But so far, all of them have suffered from the "goldilocks problem," either too hot, too cold, or far too massive to support life.

But the new planet, which so far is only being called "c," is different.  It has an atmosphere, liquid water, a surface temperature estimated to range from 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is roughly five times as massive as the earth but, due to a larger diameter, has a surface gravity only1.6 times that the Earth's.   It's also much closer to its parent star, having a 'year' only 13 days long.  The view from the surface would be spectacular, with the planet's sun appearing in the sky some 20 times larger than does our moon.

"On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X", says report co-author Xavier Delfosse of Grenoble University. "Liquid water is critical to life as we know it.  Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life."

The team examined 100 different stars using the HARPS planet searcher at the European Southern Observatory in the Chilean Alps.



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RE: *sigh*
By Enoch2001 on 4/28/2007 11:18:47 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
20ly is nothing... compared to our galaxy's 100 000

and to really be realistic, traveling quite close to light speed is actually possible. with an engine capable of providing 1g acceleration/deceleration (switching in midpoint) for a long time, i.e. some nuclear photon propulsion, we can cross the whole galaxy in less than 25 years (traveler's time). isn't time dilation a great thing? yes, that would still be more than 100 000 years earth time, but so what?

in the case of going just 20ly from here, again with a comfortable 1g acceleration, we'd need as little as 6 years of proper-time travel. 3 years of 1g acceleration will take us to a velocity more than 0.995 c.

we don't even need to get that close to c for distances this small.... a constant 1g acceleration for just 320 days will get us to the more feasibly-sounding 0.7 c, which still is enough to reach this planet in under 30 years earth time. time dilation won't be that big, so the traveler's time will be around 22 years.

the bullet-issue you mentioned is indeed a show stopper with current tech, but be sure it will be solved. it might be some sort of armour or deflector shield or just picking a route relatively far from stars and matter concentrations... but there will be a solution.


Again, I stand by what I said. Traveling at light-speed will never happen, nor is it even an option even if the ability is obtained.

Why?

I'll tell you why: logic.

Why the hell would I spend 20 years on a friggin' space-ship, go to the nearest potentially habital planet discovered, do some research only to discover that it's no where near being a planet worth living on, come back to home base only to find that 40+ years of everyone else's lives has gone by? And that's to the NEAREST destination - you're talking about spending even more than 20 years living in a spaceship???

And no, time dilation is not a "great thing". It's a massive problem. You obviously have no concept of human mental health - I challenge anyone to live in a pre-determined set amount of space and not go mad over time... oh, and then accelerate everyone else's lives that they know and love a rip their very concept of reality away from them. Sure makes for good scientific research - I'll bet we'll have more than just a few psycho girlfriend astronauts trying to abduct their exes with duct tape...

If you people want to embrace the power of the human potential with sci-fi pipe dreams, then I stick by my tongue and cheek comment: fold space instead. You get around the whole time-travel paradox and make it worth our time.

If anything, human travel by light-speed is impractical. Perhaps some robotic missions, but folding space/worm holes/etc would be a much more practical method of traversing interstellar space...albeit that's as improbable as traveling at light speed.


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