Monday, October 19, 2009

Thirty Planets

Extrasolar Planet
That is how many new discoveries are being reported at the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia website, along with three new brown dwarfs.

I was tipped off by a political blog, which linked to this CNN article. Yes, the article says 32 planets, but I'll go with the Paris Observatory. It may be a matter of updated information, since the observatory site links an email that references 29 plus 1.

No details yet about the newly reported planets - the image above, from the CNN site, seems to show a planet orbiting a double star, but it may just be a generic exoplanet from file footage, so to speak.

But thirty new planets (at least!) have swum into our ken. Wow.

Related posts: The California planet search team reported a haul of 28 planets in 2007.


Anonymous said...

From all these discoveries of extra-solar planets over the years, even in places where planet's shouldn't have formed, one would come to the conclusion that planets are relatively easy in the cosmic scheme of things to create. And this is just planets that are massive enough to be detected by current means, technology, and techniques, let alone worlds equal or smaller to that of Earth.

Though it does raise the question as to what the ratio of planetary star systems are in comparison to stars that lack any planets, let alone those whose chemistry allows for habitability for life as we currently know it.

Then we come to the problem of how the *bleep* do we as a species can make the one way trip to those planets within the human life span, let alone a round trip.

- Sabersonic
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Rick said...

I saw a figure a couple of years ago that about 7 percent of candidate stars have a planet detectable by (then) current means. The proportion must be creeping up as our instruments get more sensitive.

What we have not found many of - yet - are 'normal' planetary systems, or what we thought would be normal, i.e. more or less like the Solar System. But this may be selection bias. The radial velocity method that found these planets needs a full orbit, more or less, to confirm a discovery, which means a decade or more for a Jupiter analog.

As for getting to them, very difficult! Barring magic AKA FTL, it is unlikely we'll be going there in the midfuture, and perhaps not for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

The last theory I heard was that 60% of G, K, and M type stars should have planets of some kind...yet we still don't know what percent of those planets are terrestrial. The Sol system may be any example of a rare minority, or may be the most common type of planetary system in the universe...give us another 20 or 30 years and we might have a better answer. Out of the millions of stars that we CAN survey for planets, we have found only about 400 or so far. As our detection techniques improve, so will the range of exoplanets we will of those future discoveries might spur us to come up with a way to go visit it. One can always hope...


Citizen Joe said...

I seem to recall some sort of analogy to a biologist casting a net into the surf in order to find out what kind of life is in the sea. He then concludes that there are no life forms smaller than 2" in the sea and all sea life has gills. That is of course preposterous, but it is the false impression based on the testing method (using a net from the shore). The same can be said for our methods of detecting planets. We can only detect those planets that have an ecliptic in line with Earth (thus we can see them pass in front of their star) or they are so large and close to their star that we can see the star wobble.

Rick said...

Whether a star has planets may depend heavily on the neighorhood environment when the star was formed. If it forms in a very rich cluster the protoplanetary disk may be disrupted before planets form; if it doesn't, it seems more likely to have planets of some sort.

In 30 years, yes, we will know a lot more! Pause to note that while human exploration has been slower than we expected in the late 1960s, our overall progress in exploration has been astonishing. In the old stories, no one knew whether another star had planets till they sent a survey ship.

Citizen Joe said...

If you count Hubble's Ultra Deep Field, we've explored out to 13 BILLION light years.

Citizen Joe said...

Erk... I just watched an episode of Cosmic Journeys that asks how large the Universe is... It seems my 13 billion is the supposed AGE of the Universe while we've scanned out to about 40 billion light years north and south of Earth. Which puts the observable universe at over 8 billion light years. What's more, theory dictates that the universe cannot be smaller than about 150 billion light years across. There is also evidence that the universe is not only growing, but it is accelerating outwards. In order to get to its current size, the universe would have to have averaged 5 times the speed of light in the time that it has had to expand.

To me, this says that accelerating through space is not the way to go fast. We will need some sort of ability to squish space and travel across vast distances at much lower speeds. Of course, there is no indication of space getting smaller, only larger, so this could be a case of trying to put the genie back in the bottle.

Rick said...

Big place! And alas, the prospects for FTL are not very promising

By the way, there is an update on the findings at Sky & Telescope. Apparently the planet in the artist's conception is in a triple system, and the bright stars in the background are the two more distant components.