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posted by girlwhowaspluggedout on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:00PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the still-less-vapor-than-the-phantom-console dept.

kef writes:

"Water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of exo-planet Tau Boötis b, which was was discovered in 1996 and is just 51 light years away. From the article:

To analyze the atmosphere surrounding Tau Boötis b, scientists looked at its faint glow. Different types of molecules emit different wavelengths of light, resulting in signatures known as spectra that reveal their chemical identity.

Scientists have used spectrographic analyses to find water signatures on other alien planets before, but only when those worlds passed in front of their parent stars. Tau Boötis b does not transit in front of its parent star from our viewpoint on Earth, but Lockwood and colleagues were able to tease out the weak light emitted by the planet using the Near Infrared Echelle Spectrograph (NIRSPEC) at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii."

[ED note: The findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal (paywalled), but they are also freely viewable on Arxiv.]

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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by AnonTechie on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:11PM

    by AnonTechie (2275) on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:11PM (#9209) Journal

    When will we detect ethyl alcohol ??

    --
    Albert Einstein - "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Thexalon on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:26PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:26PM (#9215)

      When it is shown that it is possible to have life that uses ethyl alcohol as a solvent the way water is with Earthly life. Now, I'm off to the pub to assist in testing this hypothesis ...

      --
      Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bd on Saturday March 01 2014, @10:18PM

        by bd (2773) on Saturday March 01 2014, @10:18PM (#9261)

        Disclaimer: I'm not an astrophysicist. I did read the thesis of a friend of mine who is now an astrophysicist, to find spelling errors, once. but I don't think anybody noticed...

        I do not think this paper was about detecting life, even as a remote possibility.

        The planet in question is circling an F-type star, which is a little bit larger than the sun (1-1.5 solar masses), so far so good. But there, the similarities to the solar system end. The star forms the \tau Bo"otis star system as a binary together with an M-type red dwarf. Additionally, a year on the planet has a length of 3.3 days, and it is a hot Jupiter type of planet (6 times the mass of Jupiter).

        That facilitates the detection of spectral lines from the planet, as the planet is quite hot and emits light by itself. So we detect the light of "water" like we would detect the light of a white glowing piece of hot steel (or a star).

        Not a friendly environment for life.

        The presence of the planet has been known for about 15 years. People were interested in the basic properties of the planet, like size, mass, orbit, inclination, composition of the atmosphere. A problem was that different measurement methods over the years yielded different results. This group found a strong signal for water in the atmosphere of the planet. Using that discovery, they were able to find out how this might have influenced older measurements to produce these disagreeing results.

        So they now know more about what the planet is like and a little bit about its atmosphere.

    • (Score: 1) by Jerry Smith on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:28PM

      by Jerry Smith (379) on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:28PM (#9217) Journal

      When will we detect ethyl alcohol ??

      If you don't mind a little moonshine-quality booze... http://phys.org/news63346824.html [phys.org]

      --
      All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Ethanol-fueled on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:12PM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:12PM (#9230) Homepage

      *Coughs*

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by mcgrew on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:59PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:59PM (#9251) Homepage Journal

      Where have you been? I've been partying near the constellation Aquila since 1995. [mentalfloss.com]

      Discovered in 1995 near the constellation Aquila, the cloud is 1000 times larger than the diameter of our solar system. It contains enough ethyl alcohol to fill 400 trillion trillion pints of beer. To down that much alcohol, every person on earth would have to drink 300,000 pints each day—for one billion years.

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 02 2014, @01:46AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 02 2014, @01:46AM (#9332)

        Forget asteroid mining!!!

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:20PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01 2014, @08:20PM (#9212)

    Now we have a new home that we can go to if earth ever decides to enter a Beta phase.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by dx3bydt3 on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:23PM

    by dx3bydt3 (82) on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:23PM (#9234)

    It's hard to believe that exoplanets were first discovered only ~22 years ago. As of now there have been ~1800 found. There's been direct imaging, spectroscopy of their atmospheres using light transmitted from the stars they orbit, and now direct spectral measurements. Some amazing results, especially considering this science is being done at a time when funding is ever dwindling. I can't wait to see the cool stuff the James Webb Space Telescope shows us.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Saturday March 01 2014, @10:10PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 01 2014, @10:10PM (#9256) Journal

      Not that hard for me to believe.

      Once you get the right tools, things happen fast and furious.

      After all, the WWW was only founded 23 years ago. Prior to that you mostly had email and gopher. On dial up.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:55PM (#9250)

    get your ass to Mars. get your ass to Mars.