Hubble spies carbon dioxide 600 trillion kilometers away!

By Phil Plait | December 9, 2008 1:22 pm

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have, for the first time, detected carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star.

Artist drawing of the planet and its star
Artist’s conception of the gassy planet. Click to embiggen.

This is pretty astonishing! Here’s the scoop:

CO2 absorbs and emits light at very specific wavelengths in the infrared. Theses wavelengths are like fingerprints, indicating the existence of the gas. Using a near-infrared camera on Hubble, a team led by astronomer Mark Swain (I went to grad school with him! Nice work, Mark!) took data of the planet HD 189733b, which orbits its parent star every 2.2 days. They got a spectrum of the star and the planet at the same time, and then waited until the planet was behind the star and got a spectrum of just the star by its lonesome. By subtracting the star’s spectrum from the star+planet spectrum, they got the spectrum of just the planet itself.

That’s how they saw the light emitted from the CO2. Now, that sounds easy enough, but in practice this is incredibly difficult and detailed work. I’ve done work like it, and I’m here tell you this is quite an achievement. It’s the first time it’s ever been done. As a bonus, they also detected carbon monoxide.

Mind you, this planet is 63 light years away — that’s over 600 trillion kilometers (about 380 trillion miles)!

Almost certainly, these gases are not biotic; that is, weren’t created by life. Even though the star is a bit cooler than the Sun, the planet is less than 5 million km (3 million miles) from the star, so it’s hot. Most likely, the gases are abiological in origin, but this new result has interesting implications for life. If we do spot a planet that is more suitably situated for life, we might be able to detect the presence of gases indicating that biology is going on. We’ll need better telescopes and all that, but think of this current work as a proof-of-concept.

As it happens, methane and water vapor have been detected in this planet’s atmosphere as well. Again, they are probably not biological, but this shows that we are getting pretty good at picking through the compositions of alien worlds… and that in this case the planet must have a whopping greenhouse effect going on. And it’s not like it needs it, that close to the star.

This is a pretty cool discovery. Along with the other gases detected, and the direct images we’ve made of planets around other stars, this is a fantastic time to be studying planets. Even ones a long, long way away.

Image credit: ESA, NASA, M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble) and STScI

Comments (55)

Links to this Post

  1. Holy Gassy Giants, Batman « Bearable Skyglow | December 9, 2008
  2. MetaCatholic » On a planet far, far away | December 9, 2008
  1. Russ

    Nothing to say but, schweet!

  2. Nicholas

    Phil,

    I am not the sharpest too in the shed when it comes to biology, chemistry and all the other science so help me out here.

    Do we know of many other places whether here on earth or in our own solar system where CO and Co2 are abiological?

  3. Mchl

    This is like the coolest astronomy news item I’ve read since observation of Fomalhaut b. Or maybe even cooler than that…

    We need some large space telescope fast!

    JWST is going to be IR only if I recall correctly… So it will limit it abilities to detect some elements I suppose…

  4. but this shows that we are getting pretty good at picking through the compositions of alien worlds…

    We can’t be sure of that until we actually go and verify, but I know what you mean. :)

  5. Nicolas, CO and CO2 have been detected in deep space gas clouds, for example. CO2 forms whenever an organic compound (methane, ethane, benzene, etc.) is burned to completion — all you get is water and CO2. So we know it can form without life.

  6. Mchl

    I guess it’s also worth noting that, despite their name,’organic compounds can also form abiologically.

  7. Melanie S.

    Thanks for the nice article! Cheers!

  8. The Jigsaw Man

    I have myself been irritated by the fact that ‘organic’ means little more than ‘contains carbon.’

    On the other hand, to amuse myself, I always read it like those warnings on the side of peanut packages. “Warning: may contain carbon.”

  9. MarkP

    To be precise, you need to burn the organic compound in the presence of oxygen to get water and CO2…

  10. Billy

    Probably some right-wing HD189733bians are denying CO2 causes HD189733-warming and wonder, why do left-wing scientists hate HD189733?

  11. IVAN3MAN

    The location of the HD 189733 system
    The location of the HD 189733 system
    Click on the image for link to more information.

  12. Colin J

    And don’t forget the abundance of CO2 in places like the atmosphere of Venus.

  13. Ed H.

    With the planet being that close to its star and still having an atmosphere that hasn’t been completely blasted away by the stellar (guess we can’t say “solar” =) winds, can we assume that this planet must have a strong magnetic field protecting its atmosphere? Or is something else at work here?

    Seems like having a magnetic field would mean a molten core to generate it…

    Interesting how one piece of information leads to another!

    -Ed

  14. From http://www.exoplanets.org

    HD 189733 b – orbital period = 2.219 days,
    eccentricity = 0.001,
    mass = 1.14 Jovian masses
    semi-major axis = 0.0310 A.U.

    Apparently, water vapor has already been detected spectroscopically back in 2007. Wikipedia has some more details. Radius is 1.15 Jovian radii. Surface temperature is 1,100 deg K. The planet would appear deep blue – we may eventually get a picture of it someday which would be pretty cool. The planet is thought to be tidally locked to its parent star. Hydrogen, sodium, methane, and water vapor have all been detected in the atmosphere along with magnesium silicate condensate in a haze layer. It’s the first exoplanet to have a map drawn of its surface heat – peak temperature is offset 30 degrees from the substellar point.

    So, all in all, one of the best studied exoplanets there is. Have they announced what the relative abundance of all these chemicals in the atmosphere is? Since water vapor was detected first I’m guessing there’s much more of it than there is CO2.

  15. @Nicholas “Do we know of many other places whether here on earth or in our own solar system where CO and Co2 are abiological?”

    Actually, you can turn that question on its head to read: Do we know of any place in the universe where CO2 is biological? Yes, we know unambiguously of JUST ONE place in the universe where that is the case, the earth. Hopefully some of these exoplanet studies will overturn that statement in the not-too-distant future.

  16. Sarafan

    Re Ed H.
    I was thinking the same thing… well more specificaly, what keeps the water vapor from dissasociating that close to a star?

  17. Daniel

    How do they account for redshift in these findings? Does redshift play in at all because of distance?

  18. “Organic” compounds contain carbon, with the exception of CO and CO2, weirdly. Chemists have just as bad nomenclature as astronomers.

    And Melanie, hi! Were you involved with this as well?

  19. Alan French

    Wow! And I thought we’d have to wait for the Terrestrial Planet Finder to learn the composition of an extra-solar planet’s atmospheres. Perhaps we will hear the very exciting news about molecular oxygen before too long! That would be extraordinary news.

    Clear skies, Alan

  20. John Phillips, FCD

    Daniel even if it is red shifted, the ‘graph’ for CO2 will still have the same pattern of peaks, just shifted to one side.

  21. Looks nice and warm – won’t be too long and our levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will result in the same. A bit like a good vindaloo ‘the longer you leave it the hotter it gets’.

    Bob Williamson
    Chair Greenhouse Neutral Foundation
    Author of ZERO Greenhouse Emissions – The Day the Lights Went Out – Our Future World
    http://www.strategicbookpublishing.com/ZEROGreenhouseEmissions.html

  22. Daniel

    @John
    I never knew that! Thank you.

  23. MKR

    The distances sound daunting, but I’m not too worried. By the time we finaly locate a planet that might have life on it, we’ll have solved most of the problems with long-term space travel.

    We’ll turn off the stuff that makes us get old and sick, block or negate radiation, come up with an engine that can make it there and back, come up with ways to keep astronauts’ minds occupied on the journey, and send people off on centuries-long expeditions to distant worlds.

    Even if we never find a way to move around faster than light, we can eventually eliminate the negatives of long-term space travel.

  24. Good update, although just to note, this was first reported back on November 23:

    http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/081123-planet-carbon-dioxide.html
    http://tinyurl.com/5vl9rz

    The Meridiani Journal
    a chronicle of planetary exploration
    http://web.me.com/meridianijournal

  25. Two things, Phil:
    (1) “Using a near-infrared camera on Hubble”

    There is only one – you can name it – it’s OK: NICMOS ;-)

    (2) “with the exception of CO and CO2, weirdly”

    I’m not a cosmochemsit, don’t claim to be, but when I took Organic Chemestry
    I had learned that it was not just CO an CO2 that are not considered organic compounds, but also carbonates, cyanides, and allotroic forms of carbon itself.
    Happy to be corrected if need be.

    That’s not to detract from the detection on HD 189733 b, which is quite a milestone!

    A careful read of the press release from STScI, though does not actually call
    CO2 an organic.
    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2008/41/text/
    says, in effect…
    (a) CO2 is detected
    (b) this is a “proof of concept” for biomarker detections
    (c) Organic componds can ALSO be a product of life processes

    As written the context may be misconstrued, but I think the ALSO was
    supposed to (correectly) convey hat CO2 itself is not organic compound.
    I think just some awkward working that may lead one to think the opposite
    is true. Either way this IS a very significant observation.

    Just as a note, its only a matter of time (i.e., advancing technology) before true organics are detected in exoplanets. Though not completely definitive, we already
    think we detected tholins in the HR 4796A circumstellar debris disk:
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008ApJ…673L.191D
    so, I won’t be surprised (happy, but not surprised) the day when more complex organics are found in exoplanet spectra. Time and technology will get us there.
    Hopefully not too long to wait.

    Cheers,
    Glenn Schneider

  26. Glenn, thanks for the data.I’m not afraid to call it NICMOS! I just didn’t want to have to explain one more thing in the story. :)

    I hadn’t heard that about the other non-organic forms of carbon, but the last time I took chemistry was in, what, 1980? I didn’t know about the tholins either, which is also cool.

  27. StevoR

    Awesome news! 8)

    Does this mean we can finally give HD 189733 b & (its star too) a real name? ;-)

    Seriously, c’mon, how are people supposed to pronounce that catalogue name?!

    Haitch Dee eighteen ninty-seven thirty-three bee?
    H D one-eight-nine-seven-three-three B?
    One hundred and eighty nine thousand, seven hundred and thirty-three bee?

    Such long unweildy designations a real problem for getting astronomy to the public. :-(

    Its a cool star (literally I think relatively speaking – about the same as our sun and thus much cooler than a real hot one of spectral classes O, B, A or F! ) with a cool planet (okay that’s strictly metaphorical given ist ahot Jupiter! ) and quite significant.

    We should be able to talk about it to the public with a proper name! I suggest a rule of limiting it to no more than three – four – at the very most numerals for any star name.

    (Wolf 359 and Glises 581 c we can almost cope with. ;-) )

    Using the Barnard’s star, Kapteyn’s Star, Luyten’s Flare Star (UV Ceti), Plaskett’s Star, etc .. tradition I suggest .. The Nicmos Star?

    Using the “anti-ares” (rival of ares ie. Mars) Antares tradition I suggest antoceanus (Oceanus being the Greek Ocean god controlling the “world -circling” ocean aka Atlantic!)

    Using the Balsawood planet idea I suggest calling HD189733 b The Steamandgas planet.

    Using the Doctor’s approach to the fellow Gallifreyan companion with the super-long name best known as Romana (full name many syllables longer!) I suggest Fred! ;-)

    Frankly I’d suggest anything thatreasonable over Hd 189733b which franbkly, isn’t.
    Awesome news again tho’ & my congratulations to all thsoe involved.

    BTW. Tholins -now they’re found in massive quantities on Titan – Stephen Baxter’s eponymous (bleak but good) Sf novel goes into details there .. Tholin “gumbo!” :-)

    Oh & organic misused issue – carbon = diamond and graphite, not sure either of those get organic approval do they? Another word misused – almost as badly as “metals” for astronomy meaning anything beyond Boron ?) on the periodic table .. Sigh.

  28. StevoR

    Other exoplanets with names albeit mainly unofficial :

    1) 51 Pegasi – the first Hot Jupiter type planet and first extrasolar planet ever discovered around a normal Sun-like star is sometimes called ‘Bellopheron.’ This is a mythical reference to Pegasus’s rider of legend.)

    2) Pollux’s planet is sometimes called “Polydeuces” after an alternate form of the star name. Orange giant Pollux is the only first magnitude and brightest star with a known exoplanet (still its brighter than Fomalhaut by a fraction) the Polydeuces is a superjovian with a circular 590 d. orbit.

    3) OGLE-05-390 L b or “Hoth” – from ‘Star Wars’ natch! ;-) A small and – quite probably – rocky 5-earth mass exoplanet that was discovered by microlensing around a red dwarf 21,000 ly distant –the furthest known exoplanet. It’s “year” is our decade! (10 year orbit.)

    4) HD 209458 b or “Osiris” : First Hot Jupiter found by the transiting method and the first to have its atmosphere detected – “boiling” off this exoplanets surface.

    5) 9. HD 188753 b or “Tatooine” : Ditto! This is the first exoplanet found in a system with three stars. It orbits a G9 dwarf in 3.3 days with an orange dwarf binary beyond in an elliptical orbit ranging from 6 to 19 AU. The system lies 145 ly off in Cygnus.

    6) 10. PSR B 1620-26 b, has two common names – “Methuselah” or the “Genesis” planet. This is from the fact that its the oldest known exoplanet and second to orbit a pulsar, it is located inside the globular cluster M4 orbiting a tight pulsar-white dwarf binary. The superjovian planet has the lowest mass but largest diameter in that system versus the Earth-sized white dwarf and city-sized pulsar! The Genesis planet has an estimated age of 12.7 billion years old.

    & one more that I’ve already noted sorta :

    7) TrES-4 or as its much better known the “Balsawood planet.” The exoplanetary record-holder for largest diameter and least density 70 % larger than Jupiter’s radius but a density equivalent to balsawood. 1,400 ly distant it orbits its star in just 3 and ½ days.

    Now those sort of names beat catalogue designations anyday if y’ask me or, I’d think, most others and instantly give some idea of the exoplanet’s nature or signifcinceor location that inspires,sometimes amuses and makes it less just a number to people – which in turn helps inpromotingand making welcoming astronomy to society. :-)

    I would urge astronomers & the IAU to make such names official and use them & more like them in preference to cumbersome codes in future – please!

    They don’t have to be applied to all 300 + exoplanets just the significant ones – but it does seem odd to me that the tiniest moonlet’s of our solar systems gas giants and our asteroids and comets all carry decent, pronouncable, user-friendly names whereas entire newfound planets and their host stars lack them. Why should this be so?

  29. Thanks Tom Marking & IVAN3MAN for the info, link & magnificent location map posted here. Appreciated! :-D

    You can go to one of my sources – “Worlds of other Suns” – via clicking my name above – for the named worlds listed earlier. Its an exoplanets website (not mine but a fave of mine) with examples of … er very optimistically but well written info & superbly illustrated exoplanets as named (Hoth Tatooine etc ..) Hopefully interesting for people! Hopefully the link’ll work!

  30. Brian

    This. News. Is. So. Cool.

    I can’t begin to express how excited I am to see this finally happen. It’s a real milestone.

    Here’s to the spectroscopic analysis of many more planetary atmospheres to come!

  31. Yes that links working. I also forgot Gliese 581 b wass named by the author of that “Wor;lds of Other Suns” site too – Hades I! It uses its own system and is a bit on the “glass two-thirds full” side of imaginative scientific speculation but I do reckon its well worth a look – or, natch, I wouldn’t have posted it! ;-) :-D

  32. Aaarrrrgghhh!! Flippin’ typos! Yegods, I hate how we can’t edit or even preview our posts here .. Its such a pain. Sigh. :-(

    Anyway what I said was :

    “Now those sort of names beat catalogue designations anyday if y’ask me or, I’d think, most others and instantly give some idea of the exoplanet’s nature or signifcinceor location that inspires,sometimes amuses and makes it less just a number to people – which in turn helps inpromotingand making welcoming astronomy to society. ”

    But what I’d meant to have written (& thought I *had* written until I saw it on screen (Sigh) was :

    Now those sort of names (Bellopheron, Hoth, Tattooine, Balsawood Planet, Polydeuces, etc ..) beat catalogue designations (like HD 189733b, TrEs-4, OGLE-05-390-Lb even 51Peg b) anyday if y’ask me – or, I’d think, most other reasonable people. Such evocative and instinctively pronouncable names instantly give folks some idea of an exoplanet’s nature, its significance or its location that inspires, sometimes amuses and always makes it more just a dull, hard to remember, harder to pronounce number to people!

    Which in turn helps in promoting and making astronomy more welcoming and easier to imagine for broader society. Having such amazing marvellous exoplanets reamining so poorly non-named is doing astronomy in general a dis-service. In My Humble Opinion Naturally (natch)! ;-)

    (Now if only I could correct my first post properly. Sigh. Please Dr Phil Plait, please!)

  33. Than!

    “.. having decent proper names makes exoplanets more than just a dull, hard to remember, harder to pronounce catalogue number for people!”

    Sigh. Have I finally got it right?

    Just think, I could do all this in * one * post & not * three * if I could just @$#!#@@# EDIT here! Sigh. :-(

    PS. Yeah, there are other typos, hope y’all get the gist anyhow. Yeah, I know I should check what I type more carefully and prob’ly not type so quickly. Mea culpa. I’m a fallible human being. As they say :

    To err is human, to really mess things up requires a computer! ;-)

  34. Joker

    “having decent proper names makes exoplanets more than just a dull, hard to remember, harder to pronounce catalogue number for people!”

    So StevoR, you saying catalogue numbers are * indecent * then?;-)

    Cool, got meself some new swear words :

    Hey, HD 189733b you ya piece of OGLE-o5-390-el B*!”

    Nah, not quite the same is it? ;-)

    Neat news, nowhere near as awesome as imaging Fomalhaut b and that other stars three exoplanets (wha’ waz its’ number again? Hmm… StevoR may have a point!) Sorta expect Hot Jupiter gas gainst to have well .. gases even H20 & Co2 .. but still cool to find out & good work. :-)

  35. IVAN3MAN

    StevoR: “Thanks… for the info, link & magnificent location map posted here. Appreciated!”

    You’re welcome! If one had a preview/edit facility here, I would have ‘tweaked’ the lettering underneath that image because it did not space out as well as I had expected.

    Also, I see that you have a bad problem with “typos”. I’m sure that you will be relieved to hear that according to the Discover Web Editor, Amos Kenigsberg, we will have a preview/edit facility here on B.A. Blog sometime early next year in January/February. :-)

  36. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I googled exoplanet oxygen and found that they observed it (and carbon) blowing of a planet atmosphere already 2004. Probably not molecular oxygen, but still: close to have proof of concept of detecting 3-5 potential biosphere indicators. (Water, oxygen/ozone, carbon dioxide/carbon monoxide ratios, methane, “red edge” of multiphoton organic photosynthesis – what else?)

    just to note, this was first reported back on November 23

    Thanks, I was just about to comment on that.

    The web really needs a better way to recognize when corpses of old press releases are paraded from their graves in a 2nd round. [And let’s face it, media isn’t known for actually looking at, even less remembering, what they print in order to get the ad money flowing in.] As it is, it feels like looking at the optical echoecho ofof thethe webweb.

    Not that it can’t trigger a good post, of course!

    we will have a preview/edit facility here on B.A. Blog sometime early next year in January/February

    Ah, a late yule gift then.

    Any chances we may have a sneak preview…, um, “google beta release”, of the preview facility? It doesn’t have to be perfect (edit functionality and/or spel chekkers, for example) to be useful in comparison with what we have now.

  37. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    No, I didn’t mean to make a tag bug (or rather, dismiss one too many spell check warning so as to not close the blockquote), but I think it nicely made my point. Preview, posthaste, please!

  38. Sir Eccles

    All this talk of “organic chemistry” reminds me of when I was at university talking to one of the less bright lab technicians.

    She asked me why the new organic chemistry building they were constructing next door needed so many fume cupboards if it was all organic…

    I can’t recall my response.

  39. Most interesting is a measurement of CO in the IR in the atmosphere of the planet. What is the millimeter spectrum of CO in this hot dense planetary atmosphere? Surely the planet is ‘darker’ over an appropriate bandwidth (larger the deeper the molecule is in the atmosphere I would guess) and the eclipse ‘deeper’. I think it would be a plausible target for ALMA at 345 GHz (J=3-2 line of CO).

  40. @Ed H “With the planet being that close to its star and still having an atmosphere that hasn’t been completely blasted away by the stellar (guess we can’t say “solar” =) winds, can we assume that this planet must have a strong magnetic field protecting its atmosphere? Or is something else at work here?”

    Probably most theories of planet formation would predict a rapid rotation for Jovian sized planets or bigger planets. However, this particular planet is thought to be tidally locked to its star so that it’s rotation period is 2.2 days – 5 times slower than Jupiter. So perhaps it’s magnetic field is less than Jupiter’s, say 1 gauss at the equator instead of Jupiter’s value of 4 gauss at the equator. Nevertheless, there should be a substantial magnetosphere to protect the atmosphere.

    On the other hand, Venus has no internally dynamo-generated magnetic field and yet it has an induced magnetosphere caused by the interaction of the planet with the solar wind. Apparently this weak induced magnetosphere has been sufficient to prevent the loss of Venus’ atmosphere into space during the last 4.5 billion years. So an internal magnetic field is not absolutely necessary to prevent atmospheric loss.

  41. @Sarafan “I was thinking the same thing… well more specificaly, what keeps the water vapor from dissasociating that close to a star?”

    I think steam can exist at the prevailing surface temperature of 1,100 deg K. If I’m not mistaken don’t some pressurized water nuclear reactors have steam that hot? I believe you have to go up to temperatures similar to the surface of stars (~3,000 deg K) before you get significant thermal dissociation.

    The UV flux might be a different issue. HD 189733 is a K1-2 main sequence star with a luminosity of 0.264 suns and surface temperature of 4,980 deg K. That means that out of a total luminosity of 0.264 suns, 0.0135 suns (5.1%) is emitted in the ultraviolet, 0.100 suns (37.9%) is emitted in visible light, and 0.1505 (57.0%) suns is emitted in the infrared. The UV flux landing on HD 189733 b is quite substantial, 19,200 watts per square meter. So there should be substantial UV-induced photodissociation of H2O into the hydroxyl molecule OH and hydrogen H. I wonder if hydroxyl has been detected in the spectrum. Does anyone know?

  42. @StevoR “You can go to one of my sources – “Worlds of other Suns” – via clicking my name above – for the named worlds listed earlier. Its an exoplanets website (not mine but a fave of mine) with examples of … er very optimistically but well written info & superbly illustrated exoplanets as named (Hoth Tatooine etc ..) Hopefully interesting for people! Hopefully the link’ll work!”

    Concerning the planet Hoth (i.e., OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb) the URL you provided says the following:

    “WoOS gives this planet a 100% probability of harboring it’s own life and ecosystem, a notable first among the discovered Exoplanets. It would be almost impossible for such a world to not have some form of life.”

    Huh? The planet is totally frozen and yet it has a 100% probability of having life? What/who is WoOS and what criteria are being used for this probability? According to Wikipedia the planet’s surface temperature is only 50 degrees Kelvin. This is a slam dunk for life? I don’t think so.

  43. Bill Nettles

    Golly gee, Phil. IPCC and Real Climate had me believing that the only sources of CO2 in the universe were from humans. Imagine…CO2 occuring without human intervention.

    Smile!

  44. Daniel J. Andrews

    Then you need to read IPCC and Real Climate a little more carefully, Bill. :-)

    [cultural reference]
    Phil…I like your use of “embiggen” underneath the picture. If anyone complains that it isn’t a real word tell them it is a perfectly “cromulent” word. ;-)
    [/cultural reference]

  45. Nigel Depledge

    Glenn Schneider said:

    I’m not a cosmochemsit, don’t claim to be, but when I took Organic Chemestry
    I had learned that it was not just CO an CO2 that are not considered organic compounds, but also carbonates, cyanides, and allotroic forms of carbon itself.
    Happy to be corrected if need be.

    Glenn, in my understanding, CO, CO2, carbonate and bicarbonate are considered inorganic as you indicate. Elemental carbon is also considered inorganic, but cyanides depend on the compound. If the cyanide is clearly ionic in nature, as it is in KCN, it is considered inorganic. If, however, it forms a functional group within an organic compound (such as acetonitrile), it is quite OK to consider CN to be organic.

  46. StevoR

    IVAN3MAN said :

    “Also, I see that you have a bad problem with “typos”. I’m sure that you will be relieved to hear that according to the Discover Web Editor, Amos Kenigsberg, we will have a preview/edit facility here on B.A. Blog sometime early next year in January/February.”

    He-elll yes!!! Can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned! Great news. :-D

    Tom Marking said on December 10th, 2008 at 12:27 pm :

    “@StevoR “You can go to one of my sources – “Worlds of other Suns” – via clicking my name above – for the named worlds listed earlier. Its an exoplanets website (not mine but a fave of mine) with examples of … er very optimistically but well written info & superbly illustrated exoplanets as named (Hoth Tatooine etc ..) Hopefully interesting for people! Hopefully the link’ll work!”

    Concerning the planet Hoth (i.e., OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb) the URL you provided says the following:

    “WoOS gives this planet a 100% probability of harboring it’s own life and ecosystem, a notable first among the discovered Exoplanets. It would be almost impossible for such a world to not have some form of life.”

    Huh? The planet is totally frozen and yet it has a 100% probability of having life? What/who is WoOS and what criteria are being used for this probability? According to Wikipedia the planet’s surface temperature is only 50 degrees Kelvin. This is a slam dunk for life? I don’t think so.”

    Nah, me neither. :-) That’s why I wrote :

    ” Its [Worlds of Other Suns) an exoplanets website (not mine but a fave of mine) with examples of … er very optimistically but well written info & superbly illustrated exoplanets as named (Hoth Tatooine etc ..)

    Mind you, we don’t actually know for sure that ‘Hoth’ is frozen either .. Who is to say that it hasn’t got a fair bit of geothermal heat and all sorts of other energy sources keeping it or areas on it warm? (Meteorite impacts? Extreme atmospheric factors like greenhosue gases? Pyromanic alien friends? ;-) )

    The ‘WooS’ was a site I stumbled over when searching for exoplanet info which seemed, heck, still seems pretty good. Yes they are probably being wa-aay overly optimistic when it comes to the chances of life on “Hoth” – but, hey, we can’t really prove that wrong now can we? ;-)

    (ok, ok, I * know * the burden of proof is on those making the extraordinary claims and the chances aren’t 100 % as they suggest and so on but well ..putting that aside I still reckon its a pretty good website & I like their naming ideas -& spaceart – too! ;-) )

  47. I’ve just emailed the WooS site author(s?) via their contact link & told them to feel free to visit here. Can’t find anything on there on who they are but then even this still-on-dial-up & not-very-net-savvy web-sufer knows identity can be problematic on the net although they seem legit to me.

    Bear in mind too that life has been known or speculated to exist in some pretty astonishing and harsh places.

    On Earth we know of extremophiles and bacteria thatcan endure staggeringamoiunts of heat, cold, radiation, lack of water, presenceof acids and alkais etc .. Below our feet itha sbeen suggested awhole region of deep hotbiosphere exists perhaps including silicon based microbes!

    Elsewhere within our solar system there is possible life on Mars, Europa, Encleadus, Titan, etc .. Arthur C.Clarke has plausibly imagined aerial lifeforms living in the clouds of Jupiter. Ben Bova has made at least a reasonable speculative case for life existing in his novels on Mars, in the clouds and on the surface of venus, even in the rings of Saturn – see his Sf novels.

    Now I know that’s science fiction where imagination is given more reign but extraopolating to how ‘Hoth’ may be (&how very little wereallyknow for certain about it) I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of ‘Hoth’ having life. Not that I’d put the odds at 100% or anywhere near that but still ..

    … I’d love to see us invent an FTL drive and go see! ;-)

    (Yes, yes, I know that may well NOT be possible either. I love both Sf and science – wish the latter would help accomplish the dreams of the former a bit more rather than squash ‘em with gosh-durned relativity & so forth.;-) )

  48. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Actually there’s life on Pluto too!

    Our species lives around Pluto’s core-mantle interface on a thin layer of plutonium that’s found in the Plutonian core. Our mantle is like Euopa’s (& even Eris’es) in having a subterrerean ocean hidden below an icy crust. Charon’s tides keeps our planet nice and geologically active – Nix & hydras’ tides not-so much! ;-)

    Its a pretty cool way to live! ;-) 8)

    We’ve been around far longer than your youthful species and are (hate to boast but true) far more advanced than Humanity. When your ‘New Horizons’ probe flies by you’ll see our cities as hollows on the Plutonian surface & then you’ll find us out officially. ;-)

    We’ve actually got a faster than light wormhole device and lots more techno-goodies which we were going to share with humanity to fix things up for ya a litle – getting your spacecraft to all the planets (Pluto most of all!) was our criteria for you proving yourselves worthy of this aid. :-)

    But then you had to go & spoil it all by refusing our world proper planetary status so now you’re going to miss out! We’re kinda patriotic that way! :-P ;-)

    Well you’ll just miss out – at least until you’ve included us on your planets list again and given each of the anti-Pluto IAU members a televised kick up the backside anyway! ;-)

  49. @ Joker :

    “Decency” is all the mind of the beholder! ;-)
    Its like art that way.

    Correction (sigh) :

    “On Earth we know of extremophiles and bacteria that can endure staggering amounts of heat, cold, radiation, lack of water, the presence of concentrated acids and alkais, etc .. Below our feet it has been suggested a whole region of ‘deep hot biosphere’ exists perhaps including silicon based microbes!”

    Tom Marking’s quote was meant to be in italics too .. :-(

    When is this editing option coming again?

    Any chance it could speed up & get here! I need it yesterday! ;-) :-(

  50. @StevoR “The ‘WooS’ was a site I stumbled over when searching for exoplanet info which seemed, heck, still seems pretty good. Yes they are probably being wa-aay overly optimistic when it comes to the chances of life on “Hoth” – but, hey, we can’t really prove that wrong now can we?”

    I wonder if the folks at WooS have ever heard of something called the CHZ (Circumstellar Habitable Zone). Hoth doesn’t seem to be located inside of it. The following exoplanets are located inside of it for their entire orbit assuming certain values for the albedo and greenhouse temperature increase. I’d like to see some artistic renditions of some of moons of these planets which have a much better chance of containing life than Hoth does:

    HD 10647b:
    Semi-major axis = 2.03 AU
    Eccentricity = 0.16
    Periastrion = 1.71 AU
    Apastrion = 2.35 AU
    Orbital period = 1,003 days
    Mass is greater than 0.93 Jupiter masses
    If albedo = 0.15 and greenhouse temperature increase = 80 deg K then
    habitable zone goes from 1.49 AU to 2.36 AU

    HD 134987 b:
    Semi-major axis = 0.82 AU
    Eccentricity = 0.224
    Periastrion = 0.64 AU
    Apastrion = 1.00 AU
    Orbital period = 258 days
    Mass is greater than 1.61 Jupiter masses
    If albedo = 0.84 and greenhouse temperature increase = 79 deg K then
    habitable zone goes from 0.638 AU to 1.01 AU

    HD 23079b:
    Semi-major axis = 1.60 AU
    Eccentricity = 0.102
    Periastrion = 1.44 AU
    Apastrion = 1.76 AU
    Orbital period = 730.6 days
    Mass is greater than 2.45 Jupiter masses
    If albedo = 0.15 and greenhouse temperature increase = 70 deg K then
    habitable zone goes from 1.14 AU to 1.77 AU

    HD 28185b:
    Semi-major axis = 1.03 AU
    Eccentricity = 0.070
    Periastrion = 0.96 AU
    Apastrion = 1.10 AU
    Orbital period = 383 days
    Mass is greater than 5.72 Jupiter masses
    If albedo = 0.37 and greenhouse temperature increase = 40 deg K then
    habitable zone goes from 0.776 AU to 1.14 AU

    HD 188015 b:
    Semi-major axis = 1.20 AU
    Eccentricity = 0.137
    Periastrion = 1.04 AU
    Apastrion = 1.36 AU
    Orbital period = 461 days
    Mass is greater than 1.50 Jupiter masses
    If albedo = 0.26 and greenhouse temperature increase = 40 deg K then
    habitable zone goes from 0.923 AU to 1.36 AU

    HD 99109b:
    Semi-major axis = 1.10 AU
    Eccentricity = 0.09
    Periastrion = 1.00 AU
    Apastrion = 1.20 AU
    Orbital period = 439 days
    Mass is greater than 0.502 Jupiter masses
    If albedo = 0.15 and greenhouse temperature increase = 48 deg K then
    habitable zone goes from 0.804 AU to 1.20 AU

    HD 108874 b:
    Semi-major axis = 1.05 AU
    Eccentricity = 0.114
    Periastrion = 0.93 AU
    Apastrion = 1.17 AU
    Orbital period = 394 days
    Mass is greater than 1.30 Jupiter masses
    If albedo = 0.37 and greenhouse temperature increase = 40 deg K then
    habitable zone goes from 0.820 AU to 1.21 AU

  51. Bill Nettles

    Daniel,
    I appreciate the encouragement, but I’ve got bigger problems. I have to try to explain the difference between absolute and apparent magnitude to elementary education majors. That makes me hyperventilate, thus contributing to AGW. And now the Carbon market has collapsed.

    Bill

  52. Bill Nettles wrote on Dec 11th, 2008 at 2:42 pm :

    “.. I have to try to explain the difference between absolute and apparent magnitude to elementary education majors. That makes me hyperventilate, thus contributing to AGW…”

    If it’s any help here’s how I’d explain it in three sentences :

    Apparent magnitude is how bright a star * seems * in our sky.

    Absolute Magnitude is how bright a star really is compared with all other stars equally.

    This is done by putting (in the minds eye) all the stars at the same standard distance of 10 parsces or 32.6 light years.

    I then usually use a couple of example such as our Sun which seems amazingly bright on Earth where its 8 light minutes away at – 27 apparent magnitude but is actually rather faint in absolute magnitude because at 32.6 ly off it shines at a mere + 4.82 or about as bright as the stars Alpha Sextans (4.6 app. mag) and Alpha (4.4) & Beta Sagittae. (4.4 also)

    In the southern hemisphere the two pointers to the Southern Cross – Alpha Centauri (Rigil Kent or Toliman) and Beta Centauri (Hadar or Agena) areanother good demonstration : Alpha Centauri is the closest visible star to the Sun at 4.3 light years and seems just a bit brighter than Beta Centauri inour skies. Yet Beta Centauri is about 520 light years away – and thus in reality a far, far brighter star with an absolute magnitude around
    -6 to – 7!

    ‘Spose its too late now but anyway I hope that helps!

    Thanks Tom Marking some great examples there & yes I too would love to see more astronomical art featuring those worlds – and have those exoplanetary systems given halfway reasonable names not just forgettable and unpronouncable catalogue numbers!

  53. hypnoticgenius

    Hi all,

    New to the forum, just thought I’d introduce myself :-)

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