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Science in Washington, D.C., says he can't comment on the Swiss work because he wasn't at the meeting and the data are unpublished.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
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Oct 2010 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Wow

    Rebutted? No. But it's fairly accepted that microevolution and macroevolution are two separate things, and that microevolution cannot explain certain things that occurred in nature:

    No - they're not generally accepted as two separate things. They're generally accepted as the same thing - the only difference being scale and time. (

    The scientific consensus on evolution is overwhelming. The fact that it is a scientific theory says a lot about the preponderance of evidence for it. But the term theory also provides a lot of misunderstandings.

    Just to clarify - a scientific theory (as opposed to a colloquial theory) is a model that has been studied for a long time, has a great deal of evidence supporting it, and is predictive (that is, it makes predictions that are later found to be true). A theory is as far as scientific models go. Just to provide some perspective, gravity - still "just" a theory.

    Anyway, the whole ID/teach the controversy thing is a sham. ID is not science and there is NO scientific controversy over evolution.

    BTW, there have been PLENTY of transitional fossils. However, the nature of the fossil record means we only see discrete moments in the evolutionary record. That's just how it is.

    Just wanted to clear that up, the whole micro/macro/just-a-theory argument pops up a lot in creationist arguments, but it shows a basic ignorance of the current state of the science and science in general. Not that I'm calling anyone ignorant - just their arguments ;)

    Also, this whole evolution/religion discussion is COMPLETELY off topic. As I believe someone else mentioned, the "100% chance of life" comment was clearly the scientists own personal feelings and not part of the published study. Scientists are allowed to have feelings, y'know ;). He's obviously very excited - and he might be right - there is a school of thought that wherever there can be life there will be life.

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