Planet Declared As 100% Likely To Have Life... Now Can't Even Be Found

from the oops dept

You may recall a few weeks ago, we wrote about the discovery of the first "potentially life-sustaining planet" outside of our solar system, which got some astronomers so excited that one declared the chance of life on the planet to be 100%. Of course, he may want to adjust his optimism a bit downwards as Slashdot points us to the news that another group of astronomers are saying they can't find any trace of the planet:
But at this week's Astrophysics of Planetary Systems meeting, astronomer Francesco Pepe of the Geneva Observatory and the Swiss group reported that he and his colleagues could find no reliable sign of a fifth planet in Gliese 581's habitable zone. They used only their own observations, but they expanded their published data set from what the U.S. group included in its analysis to a length of 6.5 years and 180 measurements. "We do not see any evidence for a fifth planet ... as announced by Vogt et al.," Pepe wrote Science in an e-mail from the meeting. On the other hand, "we can't prove there is no fifth planet." No one yet has the required precision in their observations to prove the absence of such a small exoplanet, he notes.

Astronomer Paul Butler, a member of the U.S. team who is at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., says he can't comment on the Swiss work because he wasn't at the meeting and the data are unpublished. He notes, however, that more observations will likely be needed to solidify the existence of Gliese 581g. "I would expect that on the time scale of a year or two this should be settled."
So, perhaps before we declare it 100% likely to have life, we should make sure it actually exists.

Filed Under: astronomy, habitable, planets


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  1. icon
    TheOldFart (profile), 13 Oct 2010 @ 6:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: To quote Peter Walker

    You used the magic word: faith.

    James Carse does a great job of explaining where the religious go wrong. When they lose their faith and adopt a belief system, they have lost their way.

    To have faith that a god critter invented the universe (or that a god critter lays colored eggs in baskets full of grass for that matter) is a matter of personal belief. People are entitled to their own beliefs.

    Where the religious go wrong is when they lose that personal faith and come to believe that not only are those subjective statements of faith true for themselves, but they are also the objective truth, true for others regardless of evidence, logic or their own faiths.

    That's where I draw the line. Someone wants to say "I have faith in my invisible god-thing", that's their right, they're welcomed to it. When they switch to saying "My god is real and his acts and thoughts and will as I interpret them apply to every person and every natural process in the universe", that's when I tell 'em to go take a flying f at a rolling doughnut.

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