Almost weekly astronomers discover new planets outside our solar system
No, so far no cosmogram with an extraterrestrial sender, no intelligent beep from the depths of space has been received. So far, the radio astronomers of the seti projects (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) scattered all over the world have not yet been able to fish an interplanetary message in a bottle out of the cosmic ocean. For forty years they have been scanning the sky for extraterrestrial radio signals of intelligent origin. But the antennas of the more than 60 launched seti projects could only detect the noise of the background radiation or the pulsation of the neutron stars – nothing else. Nevertheless, the optimism of the seti detectives is still unbroken.
So also with dr. Jill tarter, the head of the phoenix project, currently the roughest seti program: "there is a real chance; it could work out. With all our crowds we have already chilled champagne." although no champagne has been poured yet, seti scientists have already popped champagne corks several times in view of the discovery of extrasolar planets. This probably for the first time, when michel mayor and didier queloz of the geneva observatory discovered the first planet of a not yet extinct sun at the star 51 pegasi and confirmed at the same time a decades-old seti postulate, which is also a central factor of the legendary drake equation. What had previously been pure speculation suddenly became a certainty: planetary systems in the depths of space are the rule.
In the meantime the catalog of newly discovered star satellites, which must be constantly updated due to the success rate of the planet hunters, has grown to 49 confirmed planets. Since these are all in the coarse class of jupiter, therefore extremely hard and hostile gas balls, they are ruled out as potential life carriers.
But it is probably only a question of time, until the first terrestrial planet goes into the catch net of the planet hunters. Because the already highly sensitive observation instruments become more and more sensitive. This leads to a more precise measurement of the treacherous wobbling of the stars, which is caused by the gravitation of the planets. Smaller planets will also be "visible". This trend is suggested by the recent observation of two smaller planets, not even saturnine in size, around the roughly 109 and. Orbiting the stars hd46375 and 79 ceti, 117 light-years away: "it is like looking at a rocky crust from a distance.", explains geoffrey marcy of california’s berkeley university, who has found the most star satellites to date:
"So far, we have only seen the rough cliffs – the giant planets. Now we are already seeing the first smaller boulders – the saturnine celestial bodies. However, we do not yet have the opportunity to identify the pebbles of the beach – the earth-sized planets."
Dass derartig rosige aussichten insbesondere die seti-forscher beflugelt, liegt auf der hand, erhoht sich doch so die theoretische wahrscheinlichkeit, dass auch deren fangnetz irgendwann einmal die lang ersehnte kosmische flaschenpost auffischt. Presumably because of this, but also because of the planetary find at epsilon eridani by william cochran of the university of texas and his team, seti posted on their website a few days ago under the signature "symphony of new worlds" "of course, most readers know that the giant planets found so far are not exactly of the type where e.T was made to feel at home. Most of them are ‘heibe jupiters’, gigantic worlds orbiting very close around their central star. They are more like the outer planets of our solar system, which have methane and ammonia atmospheres. This is a bad scene for the emergence of life. In addition, the temperature on these planets is 1000 degrees celsius, which is a bit too much even for aliens."
Nevertheless, seti scientists are quite taken with the recent discovery of a planet orbiting epsilon eridani, only 10.5 light-years away. The fact that the most sunlike star on earth is accompanied by a planet, they evaluate in their own way: "it is as if one had found an alligator in the backyard."
In addition, seti points to another interesting context, which indeed illustrates that even in astronomy stars can sometimes have a fateful significance. Whether by chance or not – the seti program started with the star epsilon eridani of all places. Its initiator, the now legendary seti pope frank drake, scanned this very celestial body for alien radio signals in 1960 in the pioneering seti project ‘ozma’. And for a while it looked as if he had come into his own. When he targeted epsilon eridani with his 26-meter antenna, he immediately registered a short-lived, strong signal, but it later turned out to be of terrestrial origin. After all, the interplanetary circle, which has now closed, has symbolic significance for seti. Now that it is established that planets are omnipresent in the infinite finiteness of the universe, seti astronomers see the fruits of their labor within reach.
An interesting nine and a half minute audio interview with georg marcy about the pegasus discovery