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February 18, 2008 1:18 PM   Subscribe

potentially habitable planets and vindication for Pluto?

Yesterday in Boston scientists at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) discussed how the Kuiper Belt in which the dwarf planet Pluto (formerly known as the the planet Pluto) resides may have Earth- and Mars- sized planets. They also chatted about the prevalence of habitable planets in the universe.
posted by rainman84 (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm movin'.
posted by Balisong at 1:40 PM on February 18, 2008


You know, when scientists start talking about how they've recently discovered record-breaking sized giant empty holes in the farthest reaches of the cosmos, and then scant months later tell us that there could be earth sized objects just at the edge of our own solar system that we're not aware of, I start to doubt very much the veracity of the former claim.
posted by shmegegge at 1:49 PM on February 18, 2008


shmegegge, I think that the claims may be reconcilable because if there's a big black area, you know there are no stars, which means there isn't anything there for planets to form out of (IIRC, planets are formed from the dust left over when stars form). But where are there stars, it can still be very hard to see dwarf planets that aren't close to the solar system because they reflect so little light, and they're so small.
posted by Dasein at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2008


Aw, damn. You can see my house from here.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:03 PM on February 18, 2008


4 out of 10 planets surveyed said they were habitable. And looking for a nice non-smoking species. One to hang out with. Go to movies. Maybe some hot sex for the right species. Not into jealousy or global warming.
posted by tkchrist at 2:23 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


From the article: Evidence for that can be seen in Uranus, which is lying almost on its side compared to the other planets, Stern said.

Er, can someone explain how a spherical object can be lying on its side?
posted by sour cream at 2:39 PM on February 18, 2008


From what I understand, Uranus revolves around its axis nearly sideways compared to all the others, in relation to it's rotation around the Sun. Hence, it's on its "side".
posted by 40 Watt at 2:49 PM on February 18, 2008


Evidence for that can be seen in Uranus, which is lying almost on its side compared to the other planets,

I'm sure there is a joke to be made here...

'Uranus is lying on it's side? Ouch!'

Nope, that's not it.
posted by quin at 2:54 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lie on your side so I can see Uranus?
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:58 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno. This sounds more like vindication for the "Pluto = not so special" side of the argument. It is just one of many similar objects in its neighborhood (like the asteroids, which are also not granted "planet" status), in fact, it may not even be a particularly impressive example of its class.

Also, put Klingons in the Uranus joke for comedy gold, people.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:07 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dasein: "IIRC, planets are formed from the dust left over when stars form"

Sigh. No one knows how planets are formed, much like no one knows how speciation takes place. The difference, of course, is that there's no real consensus for the former, since there's no way to really test it on a microscale. What you're describing, the nebular hypothesis is the currently-accepted theory for planetary formation, and although there's not really any other serious hypothesis, it does have some small holes. Arguably, a small nebula could form one or more planet-sized objects and never form a star. And planet-sized objects could form in other ways, for instance by some sort of giant impact.

sour cream: "Er, can someone explain how a spherical object can be lying on its side?"

40 Watt got it right. Uranus's axis of rotation is tilted at 98 degrees from the plane of its orbit. Like planetary formation, the reason is unknown, and unlike it, the currently-favored reason is an impact.

As an aside, does anyone else never, ever have to resort to a mnemonic to remember the planets? I grew up immersed in space (not literally), so whenever anyone reminds me that this stuff isn't instant knowledge to anyone else, I'm taken back for a moment.
posted by Plutor at 4:35 PM on February 18, 2008


I hear Venus does it retrograde and has quasi-relationships with her asteroids.
posted by HVAC Guerilla at 4:40 PM on February 18, 2008


Oh Be A Fine Girl! Kiss Me! Smack.

Wait, that's not it.
posted by maxwelton at 4:53 PM on February 18, 2008


Well, Tim Krieder will be happy about this.

"You'll always be a planet to me, Mr. Bacchus!"
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:15 PM on February 18, 2008


If anyone's interested, the paper they published about it (much more technical than the write-up) is here.
posted by Upton O'Good at 6:01 PM on February 18, 2008


New planets in our solar system? 15 comments. Orson Welles talks about peas? 61 comments.
posted by well_balanced at 8:14 PM on February 18, 2008


The real beauty of the class "M" planets is that they are populated by scantily clad Caucasian women who know how to kiss and speak perfect Los Angeles.
posted by Tube at 8:27 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this doesn't vindicate Pluto that I see, unless the meaning is that if there are Earth-sized objects in the Kuiper belt, then we didn't need the dwarf planet category. (I think we did, though.) I used to say that the best reason for "demoting" Pluto was that it could be the King of the Kuiper Belt. No more!

This is, however, most definitely vindication for the one-solar-system mise-en-scene of Firefly.
posted by dhartung at 9:43 PM on February 18, 2008


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