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-   -   Xavier Dumusque's Alpha Centauri (http://www.myth-weavers.com/showthread.php?t=186544)

Cirlot Oct 17 '12 8:15am

Xavier Dumusque's Alpha Centauri
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by NY Times - 10/16/12
Bringing the search for another Earth about as close as it will ever get, a team of European astronomers was scheduled to announce on Wednesday that it had found a planet the same mass as Earth’s in Alpha Centauri, a triple star system that is the Sun’s closest neighbor, only 4.4 light-years away. The planet is the lightest one ever found orbiting another star and — in the words of its discoverer, Xavier Dumusque, a graduate student at the Geneva Observatory — “it will surely be the closest one ever.”

Relevant Link & The Original Press Release

As far as exoplanets go this is a pretty big deal, and as is said in the article where there's one there are like to be more. And given that In interstellar terms this is in Sol's backyard, it makes one wonder if NASA will end up dusting off old thought experiments like Project Longshot someday. The preliminary data on this planet is kind of mind blowing - an orbital period of three days and a likely surface temp of 1,200 degrees . . .

Wippit Guud Oct 17 '12 11:43am

Three day orbit... yes, it's earth-like in size and components, but nothing is going to live there. I wouldn't be surprised if it's entirely molten.

Gygaxphobia Oct 17 '12 3:08pm

The biggest impact seems to be firstly that this planet is more feasible to reach, secondly it suggests that they are more.common than previously thought.
I don't expect the real estate value is high though.

leons1701 Oct 17 '12 3:55pm

If that's 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, probably not completely molten, since the minimum temperature for lava seems to be around 1300. If it's Celsius, then yes, probably completely molten. In either case, too darn hot. But it's another milepost towards finding potential earth sized planets in the habitable zone.

In other words, Alpha Centauri A I is out of the running, but who knows about II or III. We may have to fight off those blasted mindworms yet. :p

Cirlot Oct 17 '12 6:13pm

The "1200 degrees" line was in the Times, not the original Eso release so I'd bet on Farenheight as it's an american based publication aimed at laymen; I seem to recall the Times taking the time to specificy Celsius when they meant Celsius in prior articles at any rate.

But yeah, the real thrill of this is that it opens the doors of probability to a entire planety system just four light years away. That and that they found something so small in the first place - most exoplanets we've detected are superjovians of some stripe or another; big not quite protostars that throw around enough mass to make fairly dramatic impacts on their system primary. But a ball of rock, that close to a star? That's impressive both on a theoretical and a practical level, and shows how finely the observational tools already available can be refined.

Bbender Oct 17 '12 8:50pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cirlot (Post 6196075)
The "1200 degrees" line was in the Times, not the original Eso release so I'd bet on Farenheight as it's an american based publication aimed at laymen; I seem to recall the Times taking the time to specificy Celsius when they meant Celsius in prior articles at any rate.

I wonder where the 1200 came from. Neither the ESO article, nor the article in Nature mention a temperature. Belgian newspapers either don't mention a temperature or talk about 2200 degrees
obviously, since we don't use archaic and confusing units, and Kelvin aren't degrees
Celsius.

Earthbound Oct 18 '12 2:45am

@Cirlot: /agree. I think this is an impressive (If confirmed by other researchers) confirmation of how far we've come (and still going) with our observation tools.

I hope I live long enough that we at least find a theoretically habitable planet for ourselves in the Alpha Centauri system. I know we won't get there anytime soon, (aka: Ever. 40,000 years in a spaceship is ridiculous.) but it would be exciting to see plans being drawn and our human capabilities pushed to their limits trying to imagine how to get there.

Muggie2 Oct 18 '12 8:11am

Quote:

Originally Posted by Earthbound (Post 6198392)
I hope I live long enough that we at least find a theoretically habitable planet for ourselves in the Alpha Centauri system. I know we won't get there anytime soon, (aka: Ever. 40,000 years in a spaceship is ridiculous.) but it would be exciting to see plans being drawn and our human capabilities pushed to their limits trying to imagine how to get there.

Getting there isn't as hard as people think. Getting there intact is harder, because it's not about science, it's about sociology and psychology. Physics is generally predictable, and you usually have a general idea of what to do and where to look. People are anything but predictable unless you use particularly powerful tools and make sure the people don't know enough about those tools to double-guess and thus throw the pattern awry. (Think Isaac Asimov's Foundation series).
Is it possible to built a ship that will get us there? Theoretically, yes. Will the people who arrive there follow what we would consider recognisable human sociological patterns as followed by any of our societies? Not a chance.

Cirlot Oct 18 '12 9:03am

Well if we're talking theory again I'd point to Project Longshot or Project Daedalus, or even Project Orion if you want something we could build right now using present day technology; the math behind them by and large works and the root problems of Longshot and Daedalus are mechanical rather than conceptual - no dark energy or anti matter or handwavium involved - you're talking trip times of a century or so to Alpha or Beta Centari, potentially as short as fifty years ship-time at which point we're not talking a generational voyage but something possible within a single human lifetime. It would be a one way trip, but if we're talking colonization or an unmanned mission it's not a insurmountable obstacle.

Thing is, assuming present models are right and we're in a relativistic universe where FTL is not possible interstellar exploration is possible. Hard, challenging, the sort of achievement that demands the resources of an entire civilization but possible. Maybe not the way we want, not something that benefits the individual explorer like in the SF we've imagined but something we could accomplish as a species which, on an interstellar scale is pretty impressive.

silveroak Oct 18 '12 1:14pm

At 50 years you have essentially eliminated colonization unless you have suspended animation or are using a generational approach because while the orriginal colonists might arrive they won't be in any shape to colonize a planet (being in their 70's and having spent the last 50 years in microgravity) or reproduce. Of course there is also the question of motivation- while many colonists leave for a new world seeking a new life they generally are financed by people expecting a return on their investment and the possibility of trade of some sort.


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