Tag: Super Earth

Inside The Search For Another Habitable Planet Within 100 Light Years Of Earth

 

Article by Jamie Carter                             November 25, 2019                               (forbes.com)

• The Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project is a global attempt to discover potentially habitable exoplanets within 100 light years, involving a network of over 25 amateur astronomy observatories around the globe. It will focus on ten stars within 100 light years of Earth, all of which have confirmed transiting exoplanets within the so-called “habitable zone”.

• The exoplanet known as Kepler 442b, which orbits a K-type star and could be even more habitable than Earth. M-type stars, or ‘red dwarfs’, are small, cool stars that are impossible to see with the naked eye, but they are by far the most common type of star in our region of the Milky Way. G, K and M-type stars are “the stars that are most likely to host exoplanets with water on their surface because they don’t flare,” says Alberto Caballero, an amateur astronomer at The Exoplanets Channel and the coordinator of the ‘Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project’. “If a star flares, it can damage the atmosphere of the exoplanets.”

• The ideal exoplanet is a dense and rocky “super Earth” planet, almost seven times bigger than Earth, called LHS 1140 b, orbiting within the habitable zone of the red dwarf star LHS 1140 about 40 light years distant in the constellation of Cetus. Three other prime candidates would be:
Proxima Centauri b – an exoplanet orbiting an M-type red dwarf star 4.24 light years away in the constellation of Centauri;
Tau Ceti e – an exoplanet orbiting an M-type red dwarf star 11.9 light years away in the constellation of Cetus;
Teegarden b -an exoplanet orbiting an M-type red dwarf star 12 light years away in the constellation of Aries.

• Tau Ceti e is a “super Earth” exoplanet almost four times the mass of Earth. It is so massive that you can see Ceti in the constellation Cetus with the naked eye, level with Orion’s Belt in the northern hemisphere.

• The Project has been careful to ignore stars that have Jupiter-sized gas giant exoplanets in their habitable zones unless the star is so big that it may not adversely affect other exoplanets in the star’s orbit. “We’re trying to monitor the stars 24/7 for about two months,” says Caballero, “so it’s easier for us if we focus on M-type stars because any exoplanets would have really short orbital periods. But the most ideal ones are K-type stars.”

• NASA’s orbiting space telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or ‘TESS’ has already found 29 confirmed exoplanets. Caballero says, “So far (TESS has) not detected any potentially inhabited planets, but it’s only just starting on the northern hemisphere.” In the long term, Caballero thinks that studying an exoplanet’s ‘biosignature’ from its light spectrum with better instruments will yield the most potentially habitable exoplanets. Says Caballero, “[I]t’s all about having better technology.”

[Editor’s Note]  The Habitable Hunting Project might need to strike Proxima b off of their list. In March 2018, the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in the Chilean Andes, reported that the red dwarf star, Proxima Centauri, fired off a powerful “superflare” which could be seen from the Earth. (see Space.com article here) It briefly boosted the star’s brightness by a factor of 68. The astronomy team noted that “life would struggle to survive in the areas of Proxima b exposed to these flares.”

 

The search for extraterrestrial life is easily the most profound question in modern astronomy, but it’s hampered by a lack of both technology and time.

Is life possible beyond the solar system? If we’re ever to find out, we must study and categorise the stars to answer this one, simple question: if we had a spaceship we could send to the nearest Earth-like planet, which one would we send it to?

When astronomers find exoplanets, they put them on a list marked “potentially habitable” or else use them as clues that habitable exoplanets may lurk in their star system. Most of them are exceptionally far away. So far we’ve found three close exoplanets that orbit within a star’s so-called “habitable zone” where liquid water could exist on its surface.

        Alberto Caballero

If astronomers had to choose a planet in another star system to send a spaceship, these three would be prime candidates:

• Proxima Centauri b: an exoplanet orbiting an M-type red dwarf star 4.24 light years away in the constellation of Centauri.

• Tau Ceti e: an exoplanet orbiting an M-type red dwarf star 11.9 light years away in the constellation of Cetus.

• Teegarden b: an exoplanet orbiting an M-type red dwarf star 12 light years away in the constellation of Aries.

Where will we most likely find others? Though the vast majority of star systems remain unexplored, we know of plenty that contain planets not in the star’s habitable zone. These star systems are surely the best places to look.

Cue the Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project, a global attempt attempt to discover potentially habitable exoplanets within 100 light years, and involving over 25 observatories.

What is the Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project?

It’s a network of amateur astronomy observatories around the globe—from the U.S. and Uzbekistan to South Africa and Australia—that is studying 10 stars within 100 light years for signs of new, as yet unfound exoplanets. All of the stars that will be studied already have confirmed transiting exoplanets outside the so-called “habitable zone”. “We’ve chosen observatories in deserts or high regions or mountains because weather is always the main problem with projects like this,” says Alberto Caballero, an amateur astronomer at The Exoplanets Channel and the coordinator of the Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project. “But we will need to find more observatories in the southern hemisphere.”

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Hello From Earth: Australia’s First Interstellar Message

Listen to “e172 Hello From Earth: Australia’s First Interstellar Message” on Spreaker.

Article by Wilson da Silva                        November 13, 2019                         (abc.net.au)

• A decade ago, the organizers of Australia’s National Science Week wanted to promote its annual ten day event and they dreamed up the project called ‘Hello From Earth’. The project would be a “Twitter to the stars” where they would collect short personal messages from the public, package them into a single transmission, and send them to the nearest habitable planet beyond our solar system. Now, ten years since the NASA transmission of these goodwill messages, they have passed the halfway mark on their long journey through the cosmos.

• The ‘Hello From Earth’ organizers chose as its communication target a “super-Earth” orbiting the habitable zone of its parent star 20.4 light-years away known as Gliese 581d. The interstellar Tweet was scheduled for August 28, 2009, utilizing three facilities within NASA’s Deep Space Network that together represented the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system in the world. They included a transmission facility near Madrid, Spain, another in Barstow, California, and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in Australia. The transmission was repeated twice over two hours with a combined power of over 300 billion mobile phones at once.

• “[T]here’s no statute covering interstellar messages, and no-one has jurisdiction over transmissions,” said Paul Davies of Arizona State University who also chaired SETI’s Post-Detection Subcommittee. While there is no permission required to transmit an interstellar message, responding to an extraterrestrial signal requires the approval of the SETI Subcommittee. But even the transmission of signals into space will upset some people who consider it unwise and potentially catastrophic to invite an alien invasion. As humans have been inadvertently transmitting signals into space since the 1930s from television broadcasts to military radar, most scientists don’t object to interstellar texting. Technologically advanced extraterrestrials would already know we’re here.

• In 1974, the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico was the first to intentionally broadcast an interstellar message to a star 25,000 light years away. There have been 31 such messages sent out to the cosmos. One was sent in 2008 from the facility outside of Madrid to commemorate the 50th anniversary of NASA. It also happened to be the 40th anniversary of the recording of the Beatles song, “Across the Universe”. Hence it was selected for transmission — with approval from Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, and Apple Records. The song was transmitted to Polaris, “the North Star” 431 light years away.

• NASA approved the ‘Hello from Earth’ proposal just eight days before the start of National Science Week. Organizers quickly built a website and invited people to offer messages for transmission. Australia’s science minister, Kim Carr, submitted the first message: “Hello from Australia on the planet we call Earth. These messages express our people’s dreams for the future. We want to share those dreams with you.” The website was bombarded with visitors from all over the world. In all, 25,880 messages were encoded into a binary signal at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and sent into space. (See a sampling of the messages below)

• NASA insisted on a very high level of decorum in the cosmic messages: nothing remotely suggestive, no risque humor or anything aggressive. When, in 1973, NASA sent a plaque with the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 space probes, it included an illustration of a naked man and woman. NASA received complaints from members of US Congress, and newspapers ran letters objecting to NASA “exporting pornography to the stars”.

• It’s mind-boggling that we sent goodwill messages from a random selection of humans to a potentially habitable planet that might have a technical civilization. The chance that the messages reach an intelligent civilization on the distant exoplanet is highly unlikely, but it’s not zero. If a reply does come, it will arrive decades from now.

• What would you say to an alien civilization on an Earth-like planet far, far away? Here are some of the messages that were sent in August of 2009:

– “Greetings from a girl on Earth who, every so often, looks up at the night sky and waves hello in the hope that someone on another planet is doing the same.” – Sophie of Longmont, Colorado

– “If you come to Earth, look into: music, the beach, ice cream, hugs, family, love, dancing, cheese, trampolines, friendship, books and dreams. Just for a start.” – Tamasin, Richmond, Australia

– “If someone is reading this, I hope that our children will someday have the privilege of meeting one another.” — Tegan Larsen, San Antonio, United States

– “What do you see when you look up into the sky? Do you feel small and lonely, just like us? From now on, I can assure you one thing: you are not alone. Be happy.” – Sergio Camalich, Hermosillo, Mexico

– “Hello Baba, if you are out there I love you and hope you are watching me. I wonder if when you died you went to this planet.” — Liam Oliver, Coogee, Australia

– “All our petty disputes, disagreements and wars fade into insignificance when we consider our tiny world’s place in the cosmos.” — Silvio Zarb, Melbourne, Australia

– “There is only one thing bigger than this vast universe, the desire to discover. I hope I discovered you.” — T.S.M., Skopje, Macedonia

– “My aim of contacting you is to seek your assistance in transferring the sum of thirty-five million US dollars out of Nigeria and into your trusted bank account abroad.” – Hapatikiatwengo, Australia

– “Hi there. Sorry about the Outer Limits; hope you enjoyed I Love Lucy. Have you got all our missing socks? Love, Earth.” — Fred Mason, Roberts Creek, Australia

 

What would you say to an alien civilisation on an Earth-like planet far, far away?

“Greetings from a girl on Earth who, every so often, looks up at the night sky and waves hello in the hope that someone on another planet is doing the same.”

This message from Sophie of Longmont, Colorado, in the United States, is just one of almost 26,000 sent from Australia to an Earth-like planet 20 light-years away.

It’s been a decade since NASA transmitted these goodwill messages, and this week the transmission passed the halfway mark on its long, lonely journey through the silent cosmos.

The project, called Hello from Earth, began as a science communication campaign to get people excited about Australia’s National Science Week.

Those of us running the annual 10-day event were looking for an idea that would create a buzz on social media.

We decided on a kind of “Twitter to the stars”. We would collect short messages from the public and transmit them to the nearest habitable planet beyond our solar system.

Each message would be short, later packaged into a single transmission and sent using one of NASA’s facilities.

Our target was Gliese 581d, a “super-Earth” orbiting the habitable zone of its parent star.

First detected in 2007, studies in 2009 suggested it could have large oceans.

And since it was 20.4 light-years away, it would help give people a real appreciation of just how big the universe is.

“If you come to Earth, look into: music, the beach, ice cream, hugs, family, love, dancing, cheese, trampolines, friendship, books and dreams. Just for a start.” — Tamasin, Richmond, Australia

‘It might trigger an invasion’

When I suggested the idea, the bureaucrats involved with National Science Week were intrigued, if a little sceptical, but asked me to explore it.

                          Paul Davies

In the months that followed, I had conversations with sometimes quizzical senior CSIRO staff, leading astronomers and US government officials, negotiating terms and agreeing to specifications.

Surprisingly, we didn’t need approval to transmit an interstellar message — but we would have if we wanted to respond to an extraterrestrial signal.

You can understand why: if an extraterrestrial signal is received, you can’t have everyone with a high-gain antenna answering back.

So who speaks for Earth? That turned out to be the SETI Post-Detection Subcommittee, which at the time was chaired by astronomer Paul Davies of Arizona State University, an old friend and former colleague.

“What do you think?” I asked in an overnight phone call after explaining Hello from Earth.

“Will we breach any unwritten rules in the scientific community?”

“Well, there’s no statute covering interstellar messages, and no-one has jurisdiction over transmissions,” Davies said from his home in Tempe, Arizona.

“But it will upset some people.”

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Aliens Will ‘Probably Fire Space Lasers at Us – Rather Than Visiting From Super Earth Planets

by Harry Pettit                   January 30, 2019                   (thesun.co.uk)

• German scientist Dr Michael Hippke theorizes that the gravity on alien worlds may be so strong that rockets can’t power through their atmospheres. Therefore, if an advanced alien civilization wanted contact another world, i.e.: the Earth, then they would probably fire lasers at us.

• Working with the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany, Dr Hippke has explored the difficulty of spaceflight for inhabitants of distant planets called Super Earths. Scientists have spotted dozens of them outside of our solar system, and many believe they offer our best chance of finding alien life. But the huge planets’ gravitational pull is far stronger than ours, meaning they’d need a lot more fuel to escape them than we do here on Earth. “This makes space-flight on these worlds very challenging,” said Hippke. “On more massive planets, spaceflight would be exponentially more expensive.”

• “Civilizations from Super Earths are much less likely to explore the stars,” Dr Hippke said. Instead, they would use “lasers or radio telescopes for interstellar communication.”

• The research was published in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

 

Aliens looking to contact Earth will probably fire lasers at us rather than lugging their spacecraft all the way across the galaxy.

That’s according to German scientist Dr Michael Hippke, who says the gravity on alien worlds may be so strong that rockets can’t power through their atmospheres.

Working with the Sonneberg Observatory in Germany, he explored the difficulty of spaceflight for inhabitants of distant planets called Super Earths.

Scientists have spotted dozens of them outside of our solar system, and many believe they offer our best chance of finding alien life.

      Dr Michael Hippke

Many of them are significantly bigger than Earth, and this could cause problems for any extraterrestrial rocket scientists living there, Dr Hippke said.

Each planet’s gravitational pull is far stronger than ours, meaning you’d need a lot more fuel to escape them than you do on Earth.

Dr Hippke’s calculated the forces needed for a rocket to escape the atmosphere of a Super Earth 70% wider and 10 times heavier than our planet.

He showed a rocket on a Super Earth would need to weigh around 444,000 tons due to fuel requirements – about the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

“Many rocky exoplanets are heavier and larger than the Earth, and have higher surface gravity,” Dr Hippke told Space.com.

“This makes space-flight on these worlds very challenging. On more massive planets, spaceflight would be exponentially more expensive.”

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