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Science in Washington, D.C., says he can't comment on the Swiss work because he wasn't at the meeting and the data are unpublished.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. identicon
    TDR, 14 Oct 2010 @ 6:24am

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

    Because if you look in depth at the different believe systems, you'll find similar flaws in nearly all of them, save one. Because its approach is diametrically opposite to the rest. Most world religions are about how man can become God, but only the Christian faith speaks of God becoming man, dying, and coming back to life again. Only the Christian faith speaks of a truine God - something not found in any other faith. A God that is, to say, 3 Whos in one What. We, as humans, are one person and one being. But he is 3 persons in one being, separate yet one.

    A God that is transcendant - beyond all time, space, matter, and energy - which, according to general relativity and the cosmological constant, all 4 of those had a finite beginning and came from outside the universe. There were as many as ten dimensions at the time of the big bang. A God who is always Now, because he has no past or future, because he has access to multiple dimensions of time and isn't bound to a single point of it as we are.

    Now, on the matter of this planet - Gliese 581g - it's not quite the goldmine some scientists claim it is or were hoping for. To start with, it orbits its star much closer than the Earth orbits the sun, causing Gliese to tidally lock with its star which leaves one half of the planet always facing the star and the other half always facing away. According to astrophysicists Jeff Zweerink:

    "Though this planet is in the liquid-water-habitable zone, the question is whether the conditions on the planet’s surface are conducive to life. Liquid water is one in a whole slew of requirements needed to support life. This particular planet fails to meet most of the rest of the requirements for life."

    As for those requirements, I have them here, with references to back them up. Each PDF has references for every item listed, some with links as well.

    http://www.reasons.org/files/compendium/compendium_part1.pdf
    http://www.reasons.org/files/ compendium/compendium_part2.pdf
    http://www.reasons.org/files/compendium/compendium_part3.pdf
    http: //www.reasons.org/files/compendium/compendium_part4.pdf

    The first PDF lists 140 features of the cosmos as a whole (including the laws of physics) that must fall within certain narrow ranges to allow for the possibility of physical life's existence.

    The second PDF describes 402 quantifiable characteristics of a planetary system and its galaxy that must fall within narrow ranges to allow for the possibility of advanced life's existence. This list includes comment on how a slight increase or decrease in the value of each characteristic would impact that possibility.

    The third PDF identifies 922 characteristics of a galaxy and of a planetary system physical life depends on and offers conservative estimates of the probability that any galaxy or planetary system would manifest such characteristics. This list is divided into three parts, based on differing requirements for various life-forms and their duration.

    And the fourth PDF presents a breakdown of the characteristics required by advanced life (from Part 3) as they must occur, separately, in the galaxy cluster, galaxy, star, planetary system, planet, moon, planetary surface, and ecosystem where advanced life exists.

    Bottom line, there's only less than 1 chance in 10^390 (10 to the 390th power) exists that even one planet containing the necessary kinds of life would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.

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