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Science in Washington, D.C., says he can't comment on the Swiss work because he wasn't at the meeting and the data are unpublished.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
    Niall (profile), 14 Oct 2010 @ 6:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wow

    Hmm, Newton came up with a workable theory of gravity in the seventeenth century. It took until the early twentieth century to understand how gravity works, and we still haven't worked out all the kinks. Hasn't stopped us using Newton or Einstein to do some pretty serious stuff needing accuracy beyond the fantastical.

    The concept 'Theory' in science is NOT the same as the common meaning of "wild guess" (as creationists use it). It's not even the "I think I'm right so wait until the episode proves me right that you get in pseudo-scientifical CSI. When used in the mainstream, it refers to a strongly evidenced and highly likely situation, all the way to "If I drop this hammer over your head, you WILL get a headache".

    The fact that you are trotting out all the standard creationist objections, and even the fact that you had to bring evolution into to conversation, also demonstrates the overly religious bent of your beliefs, making it not so surprising that everyone else has decided that is your belief set, without you having to state it.

    "OMG, this scientist couldn't even get this right, so why should I believe that Maxwell invented the science that makes my monitor work, and maybe Lamark really was right and not Mendel!"

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