Wondering About New Planet Estimations

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by JimBowie1958, Dec 26, 2011.

  1. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    Two new Earths and the search for life - CNN.com

    OK, orbitting their star in such a short time makes me wonder how the astronomers know that this is a case of only two planets? I am guessing that the star 'blinks' are adequately timed with a two star orbit, but is it possible that this might also be 4 or more stars that have so far happened to be at longer intervals that are offset so that there appears to be one or two orbits when there are three or four or more?

    How do we know that there arent twelve planets there with what appear to us as 36 and 120 day orbits?
     
  2. Middleoftheroad
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    Middleoftheroad Active Member

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    Well first they measure the amount of light that is coming from the star. So for your hypothesis to be correct, they would all have to be the same distance and the same size, which seems highly improbable. Second, the can also tell when the planet is behind the star, not just in front, this also causes a drop in light , just not as much. Still you could probably make a system where your idea would work, its just now even more improbable. Third, almost no orbits are perfectly circular, the vast majority are elliptical. So what they are really seeing is something like the planet pass in front of the star after 3.1 and then behind it 2.9 days later. So we would have to be at the proper angle to that planets orbit to view it that way.
    Finally, bodies with sufficient mass tend to clear out most of their orbit, given enough time.
    Is it possible? I guess I would say its not impossible, just highly improbable.
    But there are other ways of detecting planets, like watching the star wobble, which is the star moving back and forth as the planet spins around. If both methods were done, it would rule out the possibility of multiple planets in the same orbit.
     
  3. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    Thank you very much.

    Is it just me that finds it just amazing that scientists can measure the wobble of distant stars so accurately that they can make a reasonable estimate of the mass of its surrounding planets?

    Those telescopes kick some serious botox.
     
  4. Middleoftheroad
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    Middleoftheroad Active Member

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    Its not just you, I am always amazed by the stuff that they can do. But to be fair, the wobble of the star has to be pronounced, normally when they are doing the wobble method they are finding planets that are very large and very close. They commonly find what they refer to as "hot Jupiters" with the wobble method. Planets about the size of Jupiter that are orbiting about the distance of Mercury or closer. But they are always improving upon their methods, as exoplanet searching has become bigger and bigger with each passing year, as well as the funding for it.
     
  5. LAfrique
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    LAfrique VIP Member

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    Nope. I have too many pressing and important matters on my mind.
     
  6. American Horse
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    American Horse AKA "Mustang"

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    Search for Extrasolar Planets: Spectroscopy - Explore the Cosmos | The Planetary Society
     
  7. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    Finding habitable planets is not an important issue to you?

    How odd.
     
  8. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    Lol, you seem to have a different meaning to the word 'pronounced' than I do.

    :D

    Yes, in real life I am a smart ass too.
     
  9. Montrovant
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    Montrovant Fuzzy bears!

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    I'm not sure why that's odd. As far as I'm aware we do not have the means for anyone to reach such a planet in anything approaching a reasonable amount of time. So, while it's interesting and could be important information at some later date, I really don't think it has much impact on the average person's life.

    Personally I love it, I'm a sci-fi fan and the idea of other life in the galaxy, or of humanity colonizing other worlds, these are interesting things for me. I realize, however, that the distances involved are (unfortunately) very prohibitive as far as what we can really do or learn.
     
  10. JimBowie1958
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    JimBowie1958 Old Fogey

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    I dont think for a thing to be considered important it has to directly impact their lives. Some things are important because they are critical to our pregeny, though not necesarily our own personal selves.

    Spreading out into other star systems I think is critical to the long term survival for the human race, dont you? Staying in one solar system is like putting all our eggs in one basket, almost literally.
     

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