SETI Scientists Buoyed by Planet Discovery
- SETI Scientists Buoyed by Planet Discovery
By Kenneth Silber
Nov 17 1999 13:26:08 ET
Astronomers Confirm Other Worlds Exist
Painting: Transit of a Planet Across A Star
Transits Could Confirm Existence of Other Worlds
Evidence Found for Planet Orbiting Stellar Pair
SETI at Berkeley
The observation earlier this month of a planet crossing in front of star HD
209458 will affect Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) projects
in several ways.
For one thing, it ensures the star will be a priority target in determining
where to listen for possible signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.
"Whenever a star is known to have planets, it moves to the head of the
class," says Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain
More broadly, the observation strengthens the assumption, which underlies
much SETI research, that numerous planets exist in the galaxy.
The sighting is the "ultimate confirmation that there really are planets,"
says Dan Werthimer, an astronomer who directs a SETI project at the
University of California at Berkeley. Previous reports of planets were based
on indirect evidence, he notes. "We just saw stars wiggle."
The particular planet observed at HD 209458 is thought unlikely to be an
abode for life, because it is a giant gas planet orbiting close to its star
and thus subject to extreme heat. However, a number of the previously
reported planets orbit at distances similar to that between Earth and sun.
Moreover, star systems that have giant gas planets may also have smaller
planets and moons that are extremely difficult to detect with current
technology. "The next step that would kick us into higher gear would be the
detection of Earth-sized planets," says Shostak.
Paul Krugerstraat 6
7551 GX Hengelo (ov)
+31 (0)74-24 25 514
7500 CD Enschede
tel: +31 (0)53 4310412
Bezoek ook eens de internetsite van UFONET: