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DEWLine October 17 2012 01:52 AM

Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
European Southern Observatory confirmed it today:

Apologies if this is being addressed in another thread.

Christopher October 17 2012 01:55 AM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
Thrilling that a planet of Earthlike mass has been found at Alpha Centauri, but it's disappointing that it's super-close to its star and super-hot. Still, it proves we have the tools to find other Earth-sized planets in the system, so hopefully it won't be long until we know what else is there.

gturner October 17 2012 01:25 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
Another article on it.

At 6 million km (25 times closer than 1 AU to a star that's 50% of the sun's brightness), I'd guess the surface temperature is somewhere around 1600 F, though the 6 million km figure probably includes quite a large error bar.

Ronald Held October 17 2012 01:36 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
Good to see planet(s) in that system, unfortunate that the planet found is not a candidate for Earth's first extrasolar colony.

Ar-Pharazon October 17 2012 02:18 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
^ That could be on one of the other planets there ;)

Seriously, wouldn't it be more difficult to find planets at greater distances from their stars because they don't transit as often?

larryman October 17 2012 02:43 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
Where there is one Earth-sized planet... there is likely more of them. Now, lets get that NASA/Harold White warp drive going.

StarMan October 17 2012 05:10 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
"The European team detected the planet by picking up the tiny wobbles in the motion of the star Alpha Centauri B created by the gravitational pull of the orbiting planet [2]. The effect is minute — it causes the star to move back and forth by no more than 51 centimetres per second (1.8 km/hour), about the speed of a baby crawling. This is the highest precision ever achieved using this method."


CaptainDonovin October 17 2012 05:40 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
I bet there are a few more zipping around Alpha C. Yesterday, before this news I read @ about KOI-500 which appears to have five planets orbiting all closer than Mercury. Been waiting for news about Alpha Centauri, always hoped planets would be found there.

Off to build the Jupiter 2.

Mark_Nguyen October 17 2012 05:44 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
By this point, it's fairly safe to assume, though as yet scientifically impossible to conclude, that pretty much EVERY star will have one or more (probably more) planetary bodies around it. The race IMO should shift to determining valid ways of finding actual Earth-size, atmostphere-bearing planets within a star's potential Goldilocks zone. We are discovering planets almost weekly now, through analysis of passive observation, which is great. I would love for a breakthrough to be made in detecting planets like ours, which then puts us a step closer to potentially habitable worlds.

The race used to be about finding out what's there; I think we should be looking to find places for humans to ultimately go to. :)


Crazy Eddie October 17 2012 08:07 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
^ I disagree. I think the race should be coming up with better imaging techniques capable of locating objects that DO NOT cause a detectable wobble in their parent star, or whose effect might be totally overwhelmed by other objects in their system.

This, incidentally, is why we only ever seem to find planets in really odd positions -- ridiculously close to their star or planets of unusual size. Meanwhile, we could spot a carbon copy of our own solar system and never be able to detect anything smaller than Jupiter orbiting it; the other seven planets would be undetectable, and worse still if this system has two or more dwarf planets in the goldilocks zone.

Since it can be safely assumed that almost every star in the milky way has at least one planet, we should focus our efforts on increasing our detection threshhold so that we can locate smaller objects in wider orbits, possibly allowing for planet searches around some of brighter/hotter/bigger stars with absurdly huge habitable zones (hell, maybe giant Betelgeuse has a couple of Earthlike planets in hundred-year orbits or spinning around a neptune-sized gas giant; I imagine that Europa and/or Titan would become pretty nice places to live during the Sun's red giant phase).

USS Phantom October 20 2012 09:20 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
Okay, fuel up the Jupiter 2 and notify the Robinson family!

Seriously though, this is interesting news. Thanks for posting.

throwback October 21 2012 01:58 AM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
I feel that we are in the infancy stage of planet detecting. I believe in time that we will be able to spot planets that are further out. However, I do believe that we will have gaps in our information about each system until we get the means to visit the system, either manned or unmanned, and do a physical count.

Christopher October 21 2012 02:14 AM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
^We'll have the technology to image exoplanetary systems in detail long before we have the technology to travel there. The James Webb Space Telescope, which is under construction now and should be launched by the end of the decade if government funding holds up, would probably be able to detect planets around Alpha Centauri by imaging them directly. And there are ideas for more advanced telescopes that could achieve even more. By travelling out to the Sun's gravitational focus, the focal point of the Sun's gravity-lensing effect about 550 AU out, we could make the Sun itself into a huge telescope with such high resolution that we could make detailed maps of any planets around Alpha Centauri, maybe even discern individual objects the size of cars, although that's perhaps an optimistic assessment.

The problems to surmount in order to actually reach other star systems are exponentially greater than the problems to surmount in order to image them in detail from right here in the Solar System. Science fiction tends to gloss over the difficulties of space travel as a dramatic convenience, but we mustn't let it mislead us about the enormous obstacles that civilization as a whole would have to surmount to traverse the vast distances between stars.

gturner October 22 2012 08:59 PM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
Here's a bizarre point to ponder, assuming a universe where we can build enormous telescopes (many, many miles in diameter) but where interstellar journey's remain problematic.

In theory the surface of a neutron star is smooth almost to the atomic level, due to the intense gravity. A surface that smooth is often a mirror. If there are some neutron stars whose surface atoms are still normal enough for conventional electron shells, the star would be a spherical mirror like the ones you see at the corners of supermarkets and fork truck areas, where you can look at the mirror and see in all directions.

If we had a big enough telescope that could see one of these neutron stars located hundreds or thousands of light-years away, you'd have a way to reconstruct the image seen from that neutron star and gain a huge baseline for parallax measurements. If the neutron star was above the galactic plane, perhaps near a globular cluster, you could get an image of our own galaxy taken from outside it.

But the telescope to capture such an image would, indeed, be enormous! Quite a few "if's" in there, but it is at least an unusual thought.

sojourner October 23 2012 08:22 AM

Re: Alpha Centauri Bb: For Real
Gturner, I'm surprised you missed the obvious use of that neutron star mirror. It would also reflect light from earth. We could use it to look back in time.

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