But can we make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs?
March 22, 2006 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Howdy, neighbor! A direct detection of a brown dwarf only 12.7 light years away (practically next door in interstellar terms) adds another substellar object to the list of those relatively close by. While not quite the closest such object yet detected, it’s notable for being pinpointed with a combination of ground-based adaptive optics and Simultaneous Differential Imaging, a special set of filters designed to subtract out starlight while leaving the light from substellar objects. This could be an important milestone in the ongoing quest to directly detect extrasolar planets, as opposed to finding their traces indirectly via methods such as stellar wobble or gravitational microlensing. Direct detection, among other things, makes it much easier to analyze planetary atmospheres for traces of life. An object that could be as small as 9 Jupiter masses, less than 13 light years away, is a heck of a good step forward, especially considering that the very first indirect detections of extrasolar planets weren't made until the 1990’s, and I recall serious arguments being made in the 1980’s that they did not, in fact, exist.
posted by kyrademon (8 comments total)

 
I'm 31. Even a smudged, blurred picture of a real, honest-to-God extrasolar Earth-sized planet directly imaged produced some time before I die would give me tremendous peace that "out there" is something we can grasp. The science is cool and important, but there's something gripping (grippy?) about seeing real pictures of real places or hearing real sounds (like the Titan probe).
posted by socratic at 8:31 PM on March 22, 2006


I recall serious arguments being made in the 1980’s that they did not, in fact, exist

Serious arguments by knowledgeable people? That's extraordinary; space, as Douglas Adams observed, is really, reallly big.. (Feel free to finish the quote.) The sheer amount of stuff in our galaxy alone staggers the mind, and in the universe itself? The safest assumption that you can make is that it contains everything you can imagine and quite a bit that you cannot, in quantities beyond your comprehension.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:36 PM on March 22, 2006


Well, the thing was, we aren't all that sure about the subtleties of planetary formation--it was entirely reasonable to argue that solar systems with planets were extremely rare. Just as now, very compelling arguments can be made that there are no intelligent civilizations elsewhere in our galaxy--which will look silly, in retrospect, if we do find one.
posted by cytherea at 12:26 AM on March 23, 2006


Of course, with regard to really big, I agree.
posted by cytherea at 12:34 AM on March 23, 2006


This is offensive. Please refer to it as a little person of color.
posted by orthogonality at 1:06 AM on March 23, 2006


This is cool.
posted by OmieWise at 10:50 AM on March 23, 2006


Nifty post.

However as a member of the Alpha Centauri tourism board, I must protest this celestial body being referred to as ‘very cool’.
We have two hefty stars much like your Sol, as well as a red dwarf that is also ‘very cool’ (plus it’s red!).

Alpha Centauri - you can have sex here too!

/brought to you by the Alpha Centauri tourism council. “You can have crazy sex here” and “You can have sex here too” are registered trademarks of the Alpha Centauri hotel and gaming industry. All rights reserved.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:20 PM on March 23, 2006


This is offensive. Please refer to it as a little person of color.

When the term "black holes" was called obscene by some French speakers, Wheeler made a presentation summarised by the phrase "black holes have no hair."
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:27 PM on March 23, 2006


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