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Science in Washington, D.C., says he can't comment on the Swiss work because he wasn't at the meeting and the data are unpublished.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
    Dark Helmet (profile), 14 Oct 2010 @ 7:45am

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

    "Where the non-religious go wrong is to believe that religion is wrong."

    Er, that's kind of an odd statement. Look at it this way, ALL religions can't be right, even if one of them is. Therefore, someone who says religion as a rule is at least mostly right, by default.

    The issue is one of historical understanding. You have to recognize why religion as a faith structure came about, why certain rituals were put in place, why others were incorporated from other faiths, and then wrap it all up into understanding your faith. It's really easy (as in simple) to just say, "my religion tells me this, so it is so", but that kind of thinking dangerously precludes from greater understanding.

    "God is more real than you or I."

    I happen to agree. I believe in a God. What I don't believe is that I have any legitimate claim to say that my belief warrants more consideration than others'.

    "So yes, it does apply to everyone whether they know or accept it or not."

    Meh. That's only true if you're correct. There's no proof you are. Maybe Islam is correct. It's possible, you know. Maybe the Hindus have it right. Also possible. Taking a possibility and applying it globally, especially the way governments have, is silly....

    "But I don't force my religion on anyone. We are all free to believe what we want to believe."

    I respect the hell out of that. The only thing I'd really like to see is a dose of humility when it comes to how "sure" some religious folk are about how "right" they are....

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