Why are humans destroying Earth's atmosphere to seek life on other planets?
- Excerpt from article titled: "Solar System May Be One Of A Kind".
"What has been seen up to now does not bode well
for the main purpose of seeking other planets -- finding
life outside our solar system."
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Date: Sun, 08 Aug 2004 13:39:44 -0700
Subject: [nhnenews] Solar System May Be One Of A Kind
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SOLAR SYSTEM MAY BE ONE OF A KIND
Reuters / CNN
Thursday, August 5, 2004
WASHINGTON - Our solar system may be unique after all, despite the
of at least 120 other systems with planets, astronomers said on
All the other solar systems that have been found have big, gassy planets
circling too close to their stars to allow them to be anything like Earth
its fellow planets, the British and U.S.-based researchers said.
If that is the case, Earth-like planets will be very rare, the
write in the latest issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal
"Maybe these other extrasolar systems ... contain only the giant
said Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
Livio and colleagues took a close look at what is known about the other
planetary systems that have been discovered.
"In (our) solar system the orbits are very circular. Most of the giant
planets observed in extrasolar systems have very elliptical orbits,"
said in a telephone interview.
This could mean that astronomers have been wrong in assuming that all
planets formed in basically the same way.
Livio said most experts thought that planets formed out of dust. "This
coagulates and forms small rocks and the rocks combine and form small
and then those bodies form things like Earths," he said.
"The Earths collect and accrete gas and then they form giant planets like
Jupiter. That is one model."
But so far no one has found a planet outside our solar system that looks
like it formed that way.
"Then there is a second model that has been suggested specifically for
formation of giant planets like Jupiter. You start with a gas disk and
disk becomes unstable and it breaks up into large clumps and those clumps
are the things that form giant planets," Livio said.
"In that model it is not obvious at all how planets like Earth may have
It could be our solar system formed in the first way and most of the
formed in the second way, Livio said.
But he said it is hard to tell as planets outside this solar system can
be detected through indirect observation and these methods are not able
detect smaller planets like Earth.
Either way, it is time to start thinking about the possibility that our
system is unique or at least unusual, Livio said.
What has been seen up to now does not bode well for the main purpose of
seeking other planets -- finding life outside our solar system.
"If the orbit is very elliptical then the planet may come very close to
sun at some point and that doesn't appear to be very healthy for life,"
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