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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2012 > Oct > Oct 17

Alpha Centauri B Has An Earth-Mass Planet!

From: Nick Balaskas <nikolaos.nul>
Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2012 00:22:11 -0400
Archived: Wed, 17 Oct 2012 11:17:40 -0400
Subject: Alpha Centauri B Has An Earth-Mass Planet!

Good News Everyone!

This announcement of an Earth-size planet orbiting a Sun-like
star so very close to us is just the news the world needs to
inspire and motivate mankind in its next goal for space
exploration - to build a "starship" and boldly set out with a
crew to establish the first human settlement on this New Earth.

According to Ben Rich who headed the Skunk Works (which built
the Pentagon's secret aircraft such as the Steath Fighter and
other advance aerospace vehicles), "We also know how to travel
to the stars." and "If you've seen it in Star Trek or Star Wars,
we've been there and done that." If this is true, we do not need
a 100 year feasibilty study or wait until after we discover some
new propulsion technology since this generation is ready to
travel to the stars now!

The generally accepted view that a Earth-size rocky planet must
not be too close or too far from its "sun" so that water could
exist on its surface in liquid form and thus be an ideal world
for Earth-like life (the so-called "Habitable Zone") is not
really a valid one. For example, our Moon (a rocky world a
little smaller than the Earth is also within the same region of
the Habitable Zone as our world but has no liquid water on its
surface. Also, just because the newly discovered Earth-like
planet is much closer to Alpha Centauri B than Mercury is to our
Sun is not necessarily "much too hot for life as we know it". If
only one side of this planet always faces Alpha Centauri B (just
like only one side of the Moon always faces the Earth), then it
is possible that this planet may have a range of temperatures
from extremely hot on the side facing its sun and extremely cold
on the side facing away from its sun.



Alpha Centauri B Has An Earth-Mass Planet
By Keith Cowing
Posted October 16, 2012 6:00 PM

European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the
mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system -
- the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever
discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected
using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-meter telescope at ESO's
La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results will appear online in
the journal Nature on 17 October 2012.

Alpha Centauri is one of the brightest stars in the southern
skies and is the nearest stellar system to our solar system --
only 4.3 light-years away. It is actually a triple star -- a
system consisting of two stars similar to the Sun orbiting close
to each other, designated Alpha Centauri A and B, and a more
distant and faint red component known as Proxima Centauri [1].
Since the nineteenth century astronomers have speculated about
planets orbiting these bodies, the closest possible abodes for
life beyond the solar system, but searches of increasing
precision had revealed nothing. Until now.

"Our observations extended over more than four years using the
HARPS instrument and have revealed a tiny, but real, signal from
a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B every 3.2 days," says Xavier
Dumusque (Geneva Observatory, Switzerland, and Centro de
Astrofisica da Universidade do Porto, Portugal), lead author of
the paper. "It's an extraordinary discovery and it has pushed
our technique to the limit!"

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 centimeters per second (1.8 km/hour), about the speed of
a baby crawling. This is the highest precision ever achieved
using this method.

Alpha Centauri B is very similar to the Sun but slightly smaller
and less bright. The newly discovered planet, with a mass of a
little more than that of the Earth [3], is orbiting about six
million kilometers away from the star, much closer than Mercury
is to the Sun in the solar system. The orbit of the other bright
component of the double star, Alpha Centauri A, keeps it
hundreds of times further away, but it would still be a very
brilliant object in the planet's skies.

The first exoplanet around a Sun-like star was found by the same
team back in 1995 and since then there have been more than 800
confirmed discoveries, but most are much bigger than the Earth,
and many are as big as Jupiter [4]. The challenge astronomers
now face is to detect and characterize a planet of mass
comparable to the Earth that is orbiting in the habitable zone
[5] around another star. The first step has now been taken [6].

"This is the first planet with a mass similar to Earth ever
found around a star like the Sun. Its orbit is very close to its
star and it must be much too hot for life as we know it," adds
Stephane Udry (Geneva Observatory), a co-author of the paper and
member of the team, "but it may well be just one planet in a
system of several. Our other HARPS results, and new findings
from Kepler, both show clearly that the majority of low-mass
planets are found in such systems."

"This result represents a major step towards the detection of a
twin Earth in the immediate vicinity of the Sun. We live in
exciting times!" concludes Xavier Dumusque.

ESO will hold an online press conference offering journalists
the opportunity to discuss the result and its impact with the


Nick Balaskas

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