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Science in Washington, D.C., says he can't comment on the Swiss work because he wasn't at the meeting and the data are unpublished.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 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Wow

    Meaning anyone who dissents or disagrees with it has their arguments dismissed out of hand, because they dont toe the line. Because thats exactly what happens. Its exactly what you are doing to me.


    Look, this is part of how science works - you propose a hypothesis and provide evidence. If someone else disagrees with your hypothesis, they say why and provide evidence. Do you see what these two people have in common? That's right, evidence.

    In science you are allowed, and even encouraged, to disagree. But, you have to have evidence. What's the important part here? One more time, evidence.

    It is possible (but not likely!) that someone could find real evidence tomorrow that completely disproves evolution. And that person would be FAMOUS and win a Nobel and have things named after them. But no one has yet, and there is a ton of evidence (there's that word again!) to support evolution.

    So, what's the lesson here? Whining about how you don't like evolution and that it doesn't make sense to you and therefore it is bad and icky, and all the people that disagree with you and call you names for thinking that way are persecuting you - it is a waste of time. People aren't persecuting you if they ask you to back up your views with evidence.

    Succinctly, put up or shut up.

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