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Science in Washington, D.C., says he can't comment on the Swiss work because he wasn't at the meeting and the data are unpublished.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), 15 Oct 2010 @ 5:53am

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

    That's an awfully convenient way to 'discount' 'apparent' errors in the bible. "Oh they are from different perspectives" "Oh the devil did it".

    If two books are written at different times, it's hardly a stretch to posit that inaccuracies have crept in, however innocently. As it is, the bible is a collection of books of varying providence, with people randomly choosing which to include or leave out based on their own preferences. There is no 'definitive' version carved on stone tablets/Norwegian fjords...

    Claiming the bible has useful information/history/ethics is one thing. Claiming it is 'all-knowing' or 'inerrant' is where most people who aren't heavily religious finds it sticks in their craws. Especially when there are fairly apparent errors in various places that cannot come down to either extremely bad editing (in which case the bible /isn't/ all correct as written) or outright inaccuracies (in which case the bible /isn't/ all correct).

    Although I will give that I have seen a good justification for the apparent pi=3 based on reading the passages differently. Still, insects with 4 legs? Bats as birds? Mating goats in front of sticks will make their progeny stripy? Were 7 pairs or 2 pairs of 'clean' animals saved? Is it so hard to admit that primitive tribesmen /could/ make mistakes? Especially when serious Christians (the fundies especially) nitpick science to their hearts' content trying to 'disprove' evolution or gravity or relativity or cosmology or...

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