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PostPosted: December 5th, 2011, 11:34 am 
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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has confirmed the discovery of its first alien world in its host star's habitable zone — that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist — and found more than 1,000 new explanet candidates, researchers announced today (Dec. 5).

The new finds bring the Kepler space telescope's total haul to 2,326 potential planets in its first 16 months of operation.These discoveries, if confirmed, would quadruple the current tally of worlds known to exist beyond our solar system, which recently topped 700.

The potentially habitable alien world, a first for Kepler, orbits a star very much like our own sun. The discovery brings scientists one step closer to finding a planet like our own — one which could conceivably harbor life, scientists said.

"We're getting closer and closer to discovering the so-called 'Goldilocks planet,'" Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said during a press conference today. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets]

The newfound planet in the habitable zone is called Kepler-22b. It is located about 600 light-years away, orbiting a sun-like star.

Kepler-22b's radius is 2.4 times that of Earth, and the two planets have roughly similar temperatures. If the greenhouse effect operates there similarly to how it does on Earth, the average surface temperature on Kepler-22b would be 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius).

Hunting down alien planets

The $600 million Kepler observatory launched in March 2009 to hunt for Earth-size alien planets in the habitable zone of their parent stars, where liquid water, and perhaps even life, might be able to exist.

Kepler detects alien planets using what's called the "transit method." It searches for tiny, telltale dips in a star's brightness caused when a planet transits — or crosses in front of — the star from Earth's perspective, blocking a fraction of the star's light.

The finds graduate from "candidates" to full-fledged planets after follow-up observations confirm that they're not false alarms. This process, which is usually done with large, ground-based telescopes, can take about a year.

The Kepler team released data from its first 13 months of operation back in February, announcing that the instrument had detected 1,235 planet candidates, including 54 in the habitable zone and 68 that are roughly Earth-size.

Of the total 2,326 candidate planets that Kepler has found to date, 207 are approximately Earth-size. More of them, 680, are a bit larger than our planet, falling into the "super-Earth" category. The total number of candidate planets in the habitable zones of their stars is now 48.

To date, just over two dozen of these potential exoplanets have been confirmed, but Kepler scientists have estimated that at least 80 percent of the instrument's discoveries should end up being the real deal.

More discoveries to come

The newfound 1,094 planet candidates are the fruit of Kepler's labors during its first 16 months of science work, from May 2009 to September 2010. And they won't be the last of the prolific instrument's discoveries.

"This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth's twin," Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

Mission scientists still need to analyze data from the last two years and on into the future. Kepler will be making observations for a while yet to come; its nominal mission is set to end in November 2012, but the Kepler team is preparing a proposal to extend the instrument's operations for another year or more.

Kepler's finds should only get more exciting as time goes on, researchers say.

"We're pushing down to smaller planets and longer orbital periods," said Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead at Ames.

To flag a potential planet, the instrument generally needs to witness three transits. Planets that make three transits in just a few months must be pretty close to their parent stars; as a result, many of the alien worlds Kepler spotted early on have been blisteringly hot places that aren't great candidates for harboring life as we know it.

Given more time, however, a wealth of more distantly orbiting — and perhaps more Earth-like — exoplanets should open up to Kepler. If intelligent aliens were studying our solar system with their own version of Kepler, after all, it would take them three years to detect our home planet.

"We are getting very close," Batalha said. "We are homing in on the truly Earth-size, habitable planets."

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PostPosted: December 5th, 2011, 1:25 pm 
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This is awesome. Planets are so numerous out there that there has to be life somewhere. I hope that they find life sometime during my lifetime.

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PostPosted: December 5th, 2011, 3:33 pm 
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I love this stuff. I'd be shocked if there was NOT another planet out there with some sort of life on it.

There's an awesome app, Exoplanet, that pushes a notification every time a new planet is discovered. You can also look up all 700+ exoplanets in its database and find out where they are, how they compare to earth, and a brief description of them. It's pretty cool stuff.

I have it on my iPhone. IDK if there's a version for Android or not. Early on there wasn't, but there probably is by now. Anyway... I highly recommend it.

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PostPosted: December 5th, 2011, 8:07 pm 
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Man, I was just about ready to post this story!

This is way cool. To think, this new planet may be just like our own! I've always believed that the universe would be just a huge waste of space if we were the only one's out there. I too hope they prove the existence of life elsewhere in the universe in my lifetime. One of my favorite movie scenes ever is the first contact scene from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and I've always wondered what such an encounter might be like for real.

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PostPosted: December 5th, 2011, 8:16 pm 
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Air M'Ville Cap'n wrote:
This is awesome. Planets are so numerous out there that there has to be life somewhere. I hope that they find life sometime during my lifetime.

I wonder if life on other "earth-like" planets evolve in a similar way as it did on earth. (very simplified: Eukaryotes-->Protozoa-->algae-->plants-->water animals-->land animals...)

It could be a basic or generic process. If it is, then conceivably life could have evolved very similarly as it did on earth and a place like exoplanet kepler22b could have very earth-like humanoid inhabitants.

I know many other variables (i.e. mass extinctions) played a role in the evolution of life on earth, but in my mind this isn't an impossible scenario. For some reason I'd like to think there other humans out there, just like us, conducting their own searches throughout space.

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PostPosted: December 5th, 2011, 9:04 pm 
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prthd_dalton wrote:
Air M'Ville Cap'n wrote:
This is awesome. Planets are so numerous out there that there has to be life somewhere. I hope that they find life sometime during my lifetime.

I wonder if life on other "earth-like" planets evolve in a similar way as it did on earth. (very simplified: Eukaryotes-->Protozoa-->algae-->plants-->water animals-->land animals...)

It could be a basic or generic process. If it is, then conceivably life could have evolved very similarly as it did on earth and a place like exoplanet kepler22b could have very earth-like humanoid inhabitants.

I know many other variables (i.e. mass extinctions) played a role in the evolution of life on earth, but in my mind this isn't an impossible scenario. For some reason I'd like to think there other humans out there, just like us, conducting their own searches throughout space.


Now THAT would be cool!

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PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 6:34 am 
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Can we start the Uranus jokes now?

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PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 9:15 am 
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Frosted Fins wrote:
Can we start the Uranus jokes now?


Why? Do you think they'll find life on Uranus? :rolling:

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PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 9:48 am 
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I've been waiting for someone to ask when they are gonna find a new Uranus.

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PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 10:08 am 
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Are Black Holes close? :hmm:

Scientists have discovered the two biggest black holes ever observed, each with a mass billions of times greater than the Sun's, according to a study published Monday.

The two giants are located in the heart of a pair of galaxies several hundred million light years from Earth, said the study in scientific journal Nature.

Each black hole is estimated to have a mass about 10 billion times greater than the sun, dwarfing the previously largest-known black hole, which has a mass of 6.3 billion suns.

The University of California, Berkeley, team led by Nicholas McConnell and Chung-Pei Ma said one black hole is located in NGC 3842, the brightest of a cluster of galaxies about 320 million light years from Earth.

The second hole is of "comparable or greater mass" and is located in NGC 4889, the brightest galaxy in the Coma cluster, about 335 million light years away.

"These two black holes are significantly more massive than predicted," the astronomers wrote.

They said their calculations suggest that different evolutionary processes influence the growth of the largest galaxies and their black holes than in smaller galaxies.

Astronomers have long supposed that since the universe began it has harboured black holes with a mass the size of the two newly found giants.

These cosmic gluttons grow in tandem with their galaxies, slurping up gases, planets and stars.

"There is a symbiotic relationship between black holes and their galaxies that has existed since the dawn of time," Kevin Schawinski, a Yale astronomer said in a June study.

..

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I may have been drinking last night.

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ohhhhhh kind of like Bruce is a Fucktard? :lol: :lol: :lol: :wink:


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PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 10:48 am 
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So a black hole isn't the same thing as Uranus?

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PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 11:48 am 
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Uranus is the opposite of a Black Hole... especially after eating Mexican.

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ohhhhhh kind of like Bruce is a Fucktard? :lol: :lol: :lol: :wink:


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PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 1:08 pm 
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Frosted Fins wrote:
Uranus is the opposite of a Black Hole... especially after eating Mexican.


:rolling: :rolling: :lolabove: :lolabove:

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PostPosted: December 9th, 2011, 8:50 pm 
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When you talk about intelligent life being out there, there's this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

Quote:
The Fermi paradox (Fermi's paradox or Fermi-paradox) is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations.

The age of the universe and its vast number of stars suggest that unless the Earth is very atypical, extraterrestrial life should be common.[1] In an informal discussion in 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi questioned why, if a multitude of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exists in the Milky Way galaxy, evidence such as spacecraft or probes is not seen. A more detailed examination of the implications of the topic began with a paper by Michael H. Hart in 1975, and it is sometimes referred to as the Fermi–Hart paradox.[2] Other common names for the same phenomenon are Fermi's question ("Where are they?"), the Fermi Problem, the Great Silence,[3][4][5][6][7] and silentium universi[7][8] (Latin for "the silence of the universe"; the misspelling silencium universi is also common).

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PostPosted: December 10th, 2011, 9:42 pm 
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I would say to the Fermi Paradox answers itself. He asks: given the vastness of space why hasn't intelligent life been found? I would respond: The reason that life hasn't been found is the vastness of space. :Toast:

Wait.... Maybe that's why it's a paradox :roll:

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