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Head's Up For Feb 2nd!


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Michael Mewhinney / Rachel Hoover

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

650.604.3937/650-604-0643

michael.s.mewhinney@nasa.gov, rachel.hoover@nasa.gov

Jan. 27, 2011

 

MEDIA ADVISORY : M11-06

 

 

NASA to Announce New Planetary Discoveries

 

 

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA will host a news briefing at 10 a.m. PST, Wednesday, Feb. 2, to announce the Kepler mission's latest findings about planets outside our solar system. The briefing will be held in the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St S.W. in Washington and carried live on NASA Television and the agency's website at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.

 

Reporters may view the televised press conference at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., in the main auditorium, Bldg. N-201 or ask questions by phone. To obtain dial-in information, journalists must send their name, affiliation and telephone number to Steve Cole by e-mail at stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov by 9 a.m. PST on Feb. 1.

 

Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the "habitable zone," the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of the orbiting planet. Although additional observations will be needed over time to achieve that milestone, Kepler is detecting planets and planet candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances to help us better understand our place in the galaxy.

 

The news conference will follow the scheduled release of Kepler mission science data on Feb. 1. The data release will update the number of planet candidates and is based on observations conducted between May 2 and Sept. 17, 2009.

 

Participants are:

Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington

William Borucki, Kepler Science principal investigator, Ames

Jack Lissauer, Kepler co-investigator and planetary scientist, Ames

Debra Fischer, professor of Astronomy, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

For more information about the Kepler mission and to view the Feb. 1 data release, visit:

 

http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

 

- end -

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Guest Babylonian Dream

I can't wait! What if it turns out that there are no smaller planets outside our solar system?

 

I'm expecting the smaller ones to be more numerous in younger solar systems, and possibly also in older ones. It takes alot less matter to make a smaller planet than a larger one.

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I can't wait! What if it turns out that there are no smaller planets outside our solar system?

 

I'm expecting the smaller ones to be more numerous in younger solar systems, and possibly also in older ones. It takes alot less matter to make a smaller planet than a larger one.

 

Hey BD!

 

The 'no smaller planets' option seems wildly improbable to me, especially in the light of this... http://www.astro.psu.edu/users/alex/pulsar_planets_text.html

 

Ok, some scientists maintain that these are just the rocky cores of former gas giants that have been stripped of their atmospheres when their star went supernova. But, if that's the case, then you have to also explain their inward migration to their current positions, up close and tight around the pulsar. Yes, we now know that planets do migrate inward and outward, towards or away from their host stars. That's how all of those hot Jupiters came to be. So, the 'dead core' option is a possibility, but on balance, I favor the 'second generation' scenario. Fallback debris from the supernova explosion would be just as likely to obey the principles of planet formation we see in proto-planetary disks elsewhere.

 

What I am expecting to see from Kepler are short-period planets in tight orbits around small stars. I say this because the data they're using runs from May 2 to Sept 17 09. So that immediately nixes planets like the Earth, which takes 365.25 days to complete one orbit. To see an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star at an Earth-like distance, you'd need to look at that star for at least three years. That's what they rate as a bona fide 'catch'. Three transits of the planet across the face of the star. Detecting one potential transit isn't enough. It could be star spot mimicking a planet, it could be a technical glitch or it could just be random noise in the data stream. Two detections is more solid, but three is better. Three, regularly-spaced transit events equals a planet. So, given that the Kepler observation run lasts only 138 days, the maths tell me that the maximum orbital period we'll see is 45 days, tops. Mercury takes 88 days to zip around our Sun!

 

Therefore BD, I reckon we'll see results along these lines.

* Hot Sub-Earths, hot Earths and hot Super-Earths in close orbits around stars like the Sun. (No chance of water and/or life!)

* Sub-Earths, Earth analogs and Super-Earths in tight orbits around small, K or M stars. (Being so close, they'll be tidally-locked, with one side permanently facing their star. Water and/or life may be possible.)

* Something totally unexpected! (Yep! Always expect the unexpected.)

 

For the Goldilocks planets (Earth-like orbit around a Sun-like star), we're just going to have to wait awhile, say 2012/13, to give Kepler a chance to actually see three orbits and then nail them!

 

Anyway, like you, I'm having tribble waiting too! :grin:

 

C u there for the broadcast!

 

BAA.

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Check out the data release in the OP's bottom link. Kepler found 1,100 planetary candidates in just 4 months! 5 are Earth sized and in the "habitable zone"!

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Check out the data release in the OP's bottom link. Kepler found 1,100 planetary candidates in just 4 months! 5 are Earth sized and in the "habitable zone"!

I'm not holding my breath until these candidates get confirmed. It's exciting, but it's also too early to know anything for sure.

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Perhaps this sets just the right tone?

 

A definition of what 'Earth-like' actually means, might be a good place to start.

 

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v470/n7332/full/470005a.html

 

BAA.

 

p.s.

On a personal note, I just happen to like the idea that ALL of these discoveries (candidates and confirmed) are in a patch of sky that I can easily cover with my outstretched hand.

When the weather lets me see the ****ing stars, that is! :twitch:

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p.s.

On a personal note, I just happen to like the idea that ALL of these discoveries (candidates and confirmed) are in a patch of sky that I can easily cover with my outstretched hand.

When the weather lets me see the ****ing stars, that is! :twitch:

 

It is also worth noting that Kepler can only detect planets with an orbital plane in line with our line of sight, which is a very small percentage, less than one half of one percent for an Earth sized planet. If Kepler found 1,100 candidates out of 150,000 stars, then statsistically there are more planets than stars out there.

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I like to play with data. It's one of my habits, vises or sins if you will. I took a few of the astro catalogs and built a sqlite database with them several years back. After this was done I could (can still) do queries. From the data I have, I looked for the number of stars that could support life as we know it. This included all the M, K and G stars within 30 parsecs (3.26lys). Just looking with that criteria, I came up with almost 3,000 stars that could have planets that could possibly support some form of life. That's a lot for such a small astronomical distance an I'm sure the number is a lot bigger due to the limited data I used.

 

In the brief look that we have taken, we have already found many. The extra material left from building the star has to go somewhere!

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This included all the M, K and G stars within 30 parsecs (3.26lys). Just looking with that criteria, I came up with almost 3,000 stars that could have planets that could possibly support some form of life.

 

You may want to reevaluate your figures because the closest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years away. Also, M, K and G class stars make up about 96% of all main sequence stars.

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You may want to reevaluate your figures because the closest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years away. Also, M, K and G class stars make up about 96% of all main sequence stars.

 

I said parsecs and not light years and I used the spectrum of stars that would most likely have an habitable zone.

 

Edit: I see where I'm confusing... I said 30 Parsecs and had 3.26lys in brackets. One parsec is 3.26lys. Sorry for the confusion. For this example, the stars I pulled were are a 30 parsec range or less.

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You may want to reevaluate your figures because the closest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years away. Also, M, K and G class stars make up about 96% of all main sequence stars.

 

I said parsecs and not light years and I used the spectrum of stars that would most likely have an habitable zone.

 

Edit: I see where I'm confusing... I said 30 Parsecs and had 3.26lys in brackets. One parsec is 3.26lys. Sorry for the confusion. For this example, the stars I pulled were are a 30 parsec range or less.

 

I see what you are saying now. I'm not familiar with parsecs so I thought you were saying that 30 parsecs = 3.26 lys.

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I like to play with data. It's one of my habits, vises or sins if you will. I took a few of the astro catalogs and built a sqlite database with them several years back. After this was done I could (can still) do queries. From the data I have, I looked for the number of stars that could support life as we know it. This included all the M, K and G stars within 30 parsecs (3.26lys). Just looking with that criteria, I came up with almost 3,000 stars that could have planets that could possibly support some form of life. That's a lot for such a small astronomical distance an I'm sure the number is a lot bigger due to the limited data I used.

 

In the brief look that we have taken, we have already found many. The extra material left from building the star has to go somewhere!

 

Hey NG!

 

Talk about synchronicity!

 

Cupla years ago I toyed with the idea of creating my own database of Extrasolar planets, sorted according to various parameters - Mass (Jupiter = 1.0), A.U.'s from their host star, orbital period, star spectrum, etc. Never got round to it and now... well, now there's so many that I think I'll leave smarter and more dedicated people to do the work.

 

Anyway, have you seen this? Good to 16 light-years, apparently.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closest_stars

 

So that's, five confirmed Brown Dwarves (L and T class), two borderline ones (M8.5 and M9.0), fifty red dwarves (M class), six orange stars (K), two yellow ones (G), one yellow-white (Procyon, F5), one white (Sirius, A1) and four white dwarves (Degenerate-matter D class). Now when the LSST, Pan-STARRS and Gaia come online and start delivering their data, I'd expect the number of Brown Dwarves to skyrocket and for there to be some sub-Brown Dwarves and free-floating Planemos to be added to the list. I mention these guys for a specific reason.

 

We now know that a combination of tidal heating and radioactive decay heats the interiors of certain moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn. There's good evidence for the existence of sub-surface oceans of salty water under the crusts of Europa and Enceladus. Perhaps Ganymede and Callisto too. Now add the possibility of this.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrothermal_vent ...into the mix and you can see where I'm headed, right?

 

Yep. Even tho' a Brown Dwarf may not radiate enough light to power a photosynthesis-based ecosystem on the surface of an orbiting planet, we'd be foolish (imho) to therefore rule out the possibility of life in that system. Hydrogen sulfide and/or sulfur-based ecosystems do very nicely on Earth without sunlight, thank you very much. So perhaps the number of potential locations within 30 parsecs that could support life should be revised - upwards! :wicked:

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

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I like to play with data. It's one of my habits, vises or sins if you will. I took a few of the astro catalogs and built a sqlite database with them several years back. After this was done I could (can still) do queries. From the data I have, I looked for the number of stars that could support life as we know it. This included all the M, K and G stars within 30 parsecs (3.26lys). Just looking with that criteria, I came up with almost 3,000 stars that could have planets that could possibly support some form of life. That's a lot for such a small astronomical distance an I'm sure the number is a lot bigger due to the limited data I used.

 

In the brief look that we have taken, we have already found many. The extra material left from building the star has to go somewhere!

 

Hey NG!

 

Talk about synchronicity!

 

Cupla years ago I toyed with the idea of creating my own database of Extrasolar planets, sorted according to various parameters - Mass (Jupiter = 1.0), A.U.'s from their host star, orbital period, star spectrum, etc. Never got round to it and now... well, now there's so many that I think I'll leave smarter and more dedicated people to do the work.

 

Anyway, have you seen this? Good to 16 light-years, apparently.

 

http://en.wikipedia....i/Closest_stars

 

So that's, five confirmed Brown Dwarves (L and T class), two borderline ones (M8.5 and M9.0), fifty red dwarves (M class), six orange stars (K), two yellow ones (G), one yellow-white (Procyon, F5), one white (Sirius, A1) and four white dwarves (Degenerate-matter D class). Now when the LSST, Pan-STARRS and Gaia come online and start delivering their data, I'd expect the number of Brown Dwarves to skyrocket and for there to be some sub-Brown Dwarves and free-floating Planemos to be added to the list. I mention these guys for a specific reason.

 

We now know that a combination of tidal heating and radioactive decay heats the interiors of certain moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn. There's good evidence for the existence of sub-surface oceans of salty water under the crusts of Europa and Enceladus. Perhaps Ganymede and Callisto too. Now add the possibility of this.. http://en.wikipedia....drothermal_vent ...into the mix and you can see where I'm headed, right?

 

Yep. Even tho' a Brown Dwarf may not radiate enough light to power a photosynthesis-based ecosystem on the surface of an orbiting planet, we'd be foolish (imho) to therefore rule out the possibility of life in that system. Hydrogen sulfide and/or sulfur-based ecosystems do very nicely on Earth without sunlight, thank you very much. So perhaps the number of potential locations within 30 parsecs that could support life should be revised - upwards! :wicked:

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

 

Hi BAA,

 

I have thought of browns as candidates, and do carry some in my numbers due to some falling into the M spectrum type. What I wonder about with browns is this;

 

<INSIDE_THE_EARTH_LIFE_CONTEXT_BOX>

The habitable zone will be closer, a lot closer. Will flaring and radiation bursts occur at certain cycles in that range and cause too many mass extinctions or eradications? With eradication, I mean a complete life = 0 and most building blocks as well.

</INSIDE_THE_EARTH_LIFE_CONTEXT_BOX>

 

Now, outside of the box above, I think if the right things are around, then life is possible of some type almost anywhere. There could be other life that could deal with the above and also with high radiation, but would suspect it (ideally) would have a much better copying (replication) process. Something thats not RNA/DNA based even. It would probable have a longer speciation process due to the slower drift, but could make for really hardy life.

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[

 

Hi BAA,

 

I have thought of browns as candidates, and do carry some in my numbers due to some falling into the M spectrum type. What I wonder about with browns is this;

 

<INSIDE_THE_EARTH_LIFE_CONTEXT_BOX>

The habitable zone will be closer, a lot closer. Will flaring and radiation bursts occur at certain cycles in that range and cause too many mass extinctions or eradications? With eradication, I mean a complete life = 0 and most building blocks as well.

</INSIDE_THE_EARTH_LIFE_CONTEXT_BOX>

 

Now, outside of the box above, I think if the right things are around, then life is possible of some type almost anywhere. There could be other life that could deal with the above and also with high radiation, but would suspect it (ideally) would have a much better copying (replication) process. Something thats not RNA/DNA based even. It would probable have a longer speciation process due to the slower drift, but could make for really hardy life.

 

Ah Yes indeed, NG.

 

Current models do indicate high radiation fluxes from M stars and, if we look at Jupiter, we know that it's on it's way (mass-wise) toward resembling sub-Brown dwarf. So, yes, ionizing radiation is a hazard - at least for RNA/DNA-based life that we're familiar with. But, that's why I'm suggesting ecosystems that are shielded from such nasty stuff by hundreds or even thousands of feet of ice and water. While it's true that the surface of Europa is blasted by Jupiter's radiation, what about it's sub-surface ocean?

 

Three relevant thoughts here...

First, we have an analog of the Europan ocean, here on Earth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Vostok

Second, mission planners for future Mars voyages are looking at something as simple as water to help shield the astronauts from the solar flare radiation they're likely to encounter en-route. Placing the spaceship's water tanks on the outside provides excellent shielding.

Lastly, we know from recent observations that water is found abundantly in space. Not just as a free-floating molecule in nebulae, but also as a major constituent of proto-planetary disks, within and frozen onto the surface of asteroids, comets and KBO's - all the sundry left-overs of planet formation. So is it too much to expect the planets orbiting a Brown Dwarf to have sub-surface oceans that are nicely shielded from outside radiation? I don't think so. You?

 

Here's a final point, for your interest.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deinococcus_radiodurans Now that's what you could call, 'really hardy life'! :eek:

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

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Yes, I get excited every time I think of that icy moon, Europa. And I agree with what you said. I do hold the view that life is cheap (as in easy to make) and probably just about everywhere. We just haven't looked in a lot of places yet. One of the places I do think life is very abundant (and the most probably exists) is in icy remnants trapped in rocks and comets. As you mentioned, there is just way too much water for this not to be the case.

 

I know you understand this, but many people think if we look in a few places and not find anything immediately, they think there is nothing to find. The universe is just too big for one little planet of weird crawly things!

 

As a side: I may add a column or two to my little db the give data for planets found and chart that as well and try to make some fun predictions! :)

 

 

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Yes, I get excited every time I think of that icy moon, Europa. And I agree with what you said. I do hold the view that life is cheap (as in easy to make) and probably just about everywhere. We just haven't looked in a lot of places yet. One of the places I do think life is very abundant (and the most probably exists) is in icy remnants trapped in rocks and comets. As you mentioned, there is just way too much water for this not to be the case.

 

I know you understand this, but many people think if we look in a few places and not find anything immediately, they think there is nothing to find. The universe is just too big for one little planet of weird crawly things!

 

As a side: I may add a column or two to my little db the give data for planets found and chart that as well and try to make some fun predictions! :)

 

Well NG,

 

You may not have to wait much longer to find out if there is life in and on icy comets, rocks and asteroids. The Dawn probe is rapidly approaching 4 Vesta, the second largest asteroid in our solar system. It's slated to arrive on or about July 21, this year. Once there, it'll settle into orbit and stay there for a good long while, probing that rock with these instruments... http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/technology/ ...before setting off for 1 Ceres and doing much the same there. Sadly, Europa's going to have to wait a while. :(

 

But, on the upside, we'll be getting hi-quality data about the surface and the insides of Vesta by the end of this year and/or early in '12. Personally, I'm hoping for two things...

First, that there'll be either a sub-surface ocean there, under a layer of ice or perhaps, some internal caverns/voids that are filled with ice or water.

Second, there could be discolorations of the ice on Vesta's surface. We already know that radiation slowly changes the color of asteroids, but what if this were a different kind of color change - one suggesting something similar to this...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endolith

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Falls

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithotroph

 

Seems reasonable to me. :shrug: You'd have everything you need if you were one of these kind of bugs; ice or water to assist in chemical reactions, rocks and minerals as raw materials to eat, light filtering thru layers of ice as an energy source and enough shielding from harmful radiation if you lived deep enough. Anyway, we'll see, soon enough!

 

Btw, I agree 110% with your point about people rushing to conclude there's nothing out there. We could be the first generation that gets positive proof that there is.

 

Have fun with your data-crunching! All the best,

 

BAA.

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Sadly, Europa's going to have to wait a while. :(

 

Hey NG!

 

I'd forgotten about this... http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/fact_sheets/JUNOFactSheet2009_sm.pdf ...so can you wait until Aug 2016?

 

Ok, Juno's designed to focus mostly on Jupiter, but seeing as it's going to be inserted into a Jovian polar orbit, I reckon that a number of Europa fly-by's will be catered for too. Should be fun! :wicked:

 

Oh and btw, staying with icy asteroids, here's two that seem to have frozen water on/in them.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/24_Themis

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/65_Cybele

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

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