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    22 Dec '09 23:49
    And it's only 13 parsecs away..Very exciting finding though and it was found by the the European Space Agency's recently launched space telescope, Herschel which is even more powerful than the mighty Hubble was. A healthy competition between ESA and NASA promises exciting new discoveries in the near future.

    A super-Earth transiting a nearby low-mass star

    Authors: David Charbonneau, Zachory K. Berta, Jonathan Irwin, Christopher J. Burke, Philip Nutzman, Lars A. Buchhave, Christophe Lovis, Xavier Bonfils, David W. Latham, Stephane Udry, Ruth A. Murray-Clay, Matthew J. Holman, Emilio E. Falco, Joshua N. Winn, Didier Queloz, Francesco Pepe, Michel Mayor, Xavier Delfosse, Thierry Forveille
    (Submitted on 16 Dec 2009)

    Abstract: A decade ago, the detection of the first transiting extrasolar planet provided a direct constraint on its composition and opened the door to spectroscopic investigations of extrasolar planetary atmospheres. As such characterization studies are feasible only for transiting systems that are both nearby and for which the planet-to-star radius ratio is relatively large, nearby small stars have been surveyed intensively. Doppler studies and microlensing have uncovered a population of planets with minimum masses of 1.9-10 times the Earth's mass (M_Earth), called super-Earths. The first constraint on the bulk composition of this novel class of planets was afforded by CoRoT-7b, but the distance and size of its star preclude atmospheric studies in the foreseeable future. Here we report observations of the transiting planet GJ 1214b, which has a mass of 6.55 M_Earth and a radius 2.68 times Earth's radius (R_Earth), indicating that it is intermediate in stature between Earth and the ice giants of the Solar System. We find that the planetary mass and radius are consistent with a composition of primarily water enshrouded by a hydrogen-helium envelope that is only 0.05% of the mass of the planet. The atmosphere is probably escaping hydrodynamically, indicating that it has undergone significant evolution during its history. As the star is small and only 13 parsecs away, the planetary atmosphere is amenable to study with current observatories.
  2. Joined
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    23 Dec '09 01:12
    Very interesting. When will we be able to get to these new earths?
  3. Joined
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    23 Dec '09 09:49
    Originally posted by murphius
    Very interesting. When will we be able to get to these new earths?
    The distances involved are so large that I fail to see how we would ever want to leave our solar system. Even if we could manufacture crafts to travel at speeds approaching that of light, a parsec is a massive distance.

    Wikipedia - The parsec (parallax of one arcsecond; symbol: pc) is a unit of length, equal to just under 31 trillion kilometres (about 19 trillion miles), or about 3.26 light-years or the length of a parsec is about 30.857 petametres, 3.26156 light-years or 1.9174×1013 miles.

    Actually, NASA played a key role in a number of systems on the Herschel Space Observatory and we can look forward to amazing discoveries.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herschel_Space_Observatory
  4. Subscribersonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    slatington, pa, usa
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    23 Dec '09 16:16
    Originally posted by Diodorus Siculus
    And it's only 13 parsecs away..Very exciting finding though and it was found by the the European Space Agency's recently launched space telescope, Herschel which is even more powerful than the mighty Hubble was. A healthy competition between ESA and NASA promises exciting new discoveries in the near future.

    A super-Earth transiting a nearby low- ...[text shortened]... y 13 parsecs away, the planetary atmosphere is amenable to study with current observatories.
    Resolution in a telescope results from a combination of mirror diameter, precision of its grinding, and the wavelength being collected. If you view the combination as the # of wavelengths collected, the Hubble wins hands down, for instance, the Herschel's lowest wavelength collected is 55 microns, about 50 times longer a wavelength than Hubble, so to have the same resolution at that wavelength, it would need to be about 50 times larger in diameter or 100 or so meters. It is only 3.5 meters in diameter, admittedly a large mirror indeed in anyone's book but the actual resolution would be lower than Hubble. Of course it is like comparing apples to oranges, observing in a totally different spectral range of 55 to over 600 microns which is getting down into microwave frequencies but the actual resolution will be orders of magnitude lower than Hubble at visible and its IR wavelengths.
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    23 Dec '09 16:41
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Resolution in a telescope results from a combination of mirror diameter, precision of its grinding, and the wavelength being collected. If you view the combination as the # of wavelengths collected, the Hubble wins hands down, for instance, the Herschel's lowest wavelength collected is 55 microns, about 50 times longer a wavelength than Hubble, so to have t ...[text shortened]... al resolution will be orders of magnitude lower than Hubble at visible and its IR wavelengths.
    The three telescopes including the Planck telescope (launched on the same Ariane 5 as Herschel) are complementary with Hubble collecting data in predominantly infrared and the ultraviolet visible region. Herschel will collect photons in a much wider infrared wavelength (far infrared) with Planck detecting even longer microwaves. There is little doubt that Europe have a scientific and technological lead over the United States in some key areas of cosmology which I think is good not for bragging rights but that it has forced NASA to revamp the ageing Hubble as the launches last May were within days of one other. There is little doubt the Ariane system and dareIsay the Russian Proton rocket is a more cost effective way to launch these spacecraft but the US shuttle programme is a political entity now which hampers progress. Indeed, the point has been made that Hubble was a lot about good imagery and not so heavy on the science.

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2009/07/second_light_herschel_and_hubb.php
  6. Subscribersonhouse
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    24 Dec '09 20:44
    Originally posted by Diodorus Siculus
    The three telescopes including the Planck telescope (launched on the same Ariane 5 as Herschel) are complementary with Hubble collecting data in predominantly infrared and the ultraviolet visible region. Herschel will collect photons in a much wider infrared wavelength (far infrared) with Planck detecting even longer microwaves. There is little doub ...[text shortened]... science.

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2009/07/second_light_herschel_and_hubb.php
    I am not trying to suggest a pisssing contest, I know NASA has its collective head up its collective asss right now, it's another symptom of the decline of US science and everything else. The baton has been passed.
    I don't think it will make much difference in the long run, since the climate changes coming up will kick us all in the butt and may make all our space efforts moot because we won't be able to launch anything when we are fighting for survival on a degraded planet.
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    01 Jan '10 15:07
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    I am not trying to suggest a pisssing contest, I know NASA has its collective head up its collective asss right now, it's another symptom of the decline of US science and everything else. The baton has been passed.
    I don't think it will make much difference in the long run, since the climate changes coming up will kick us all in the butt and may make all ...[text shortened]... e we won't be able to launch anything when we are fighting for survival on a degraded planet.
    International space agencies do however compete in technological arms races whatever way you want to put it and as you know the US space programme was initially conceived in the Cold War and has thus been politically-guided since it's inception. Despite JFK's great speech: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things" it is clear that one of NASA's primary goals as I understand it was to challenge Soviet advances in the late 50s and 60s.

    One legacy of this propaganda war I believe is that NASA still relies on "dumbed-down", heavy on "optics" science like Hubble so that the US public can digest and understand where their money goes. One upside of the lack of transparency within the EU project, because there surely must be some, is that the alliance of nations allows an economy of scale and less questioning of appropriation of funds for basic science without difficult questions being raised in national parliaments so more substantive and esoteric science can be carried out like that performed by Herschel and Planck which quite correctly has significant US input.

    A general theme across this science forum I sometimes sense is one where we want something dramatic and tangible from our investment in science and quickly. The tacit belief is that, say the discovery of life off our planet, or somesuch monumental discovery would perhaps force questioning within our more dogmatic fellow citizens which might lead to real political change that would allow some movement with the pressing dangers that you rightly point out that we do indeed face.
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    05 Jan '10 22:001 edit
    Originally posted by murphius
    Very interesting. When will we be able to get to these new earths?
    =================================
    Very interesting. When will we be able to get to these new earths?
    ==================================


    Well, let's see. I recall reading that the nearest star Alpha Centura is a mere four light years away. And by the fastest rocket technology we have today it would take over 100,000 years to reach.

    So we have to work on our speed a bit before we can travel over there.
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