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Science in Washington, D.C., says he can't comment on the Swiss work because he wasn't at the meeting and the data are unpublished.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 @ 6:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not you specifically - in fact, that was aimed at John Doe. But if you want to be needled too, be my guest! Although I'm much more enjoying the proper debate we're having.

    I don't think of the christian god in human terms, I was lampooning the fact that John Doe was anthropomorphising him in a ludicrous way.,

    And much of those conclusions have been deconstructed elsewhere, for instance http://www.talkorigins.org/. Just because you have a long list based on dodgy mathematics doesn't invalidate the whole of science. Obviously many of those elements are valid science, done by people of a religious, non-religious, or not-caring bent; it is they way that they are aggregated that I object to.

    If you think this is venom, then I suggest you go look at Fundies Say The Darndest Things for some real venom. But don't forget to check the sources they are quoting from, there is some serious right-wing/religious venom there too!

    Otherwise I am not trying to be venomous, just frustrated. Obviously, if we had some 'objective' proof of the bible as written by god, then the debate might be different. But since the bible was written by highly corrupted Man (as the bible itself points out - corrupted enough to need to eat meat and suffer disease and much-shortened lifespans) over a long time period, and contains much in the way of errors that /are/ hard to explain for people who don't just take it on faith, it's not really very helpful as an actual reference. If the bible says an insect has four legs, and the earth is a flat disk, while my experience and the science I know says otherwise, I know which I will respect (more).

    Once upon a time, I believed in the Bible. Then I asked questions, read a lot, and grew out of it. I don't disrespect others believing in it. I just don't respect them using it as an infallible source of information, especially where it impacts negatively on actual science. Faith is unprovable. Science is explicitly about the provable. So never the twain shall meet.


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