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SETI Scientists Buoyed by Planet Discovery

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  • Jeroen Kumeling
    SETI Scientists Buoyed by Planet Discovery By Kenneth Silber Staff Writer Nov 17 1999 13:26:08 ET more stories Astronomers Confirm Other Worlds Exist Painting:
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 1999
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      SETI Scientists Buoyed by Planet Discovery

      By Kenneth Silber
      Staff Writer

      Nov 17 1999 13:26:08 ET
      more stories

      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


      related links

      SETI Institute

      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
      View, California.

      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.


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