Super-Earth: A Candidate for Real-World Caprica?

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A team of scientists using data from the European Southern Observatory, have determined there is a potentially Earth-like planet in a nearby solar system, only 22 light years away, but it’s at least 4.5 times the mass of Earth!

In addition to the public data from the European Southern Observatory, they were incorporating new measurements from the Keck Observatory’s High Resolution Echelle Spectrograph and the new Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph at the Magellan II Telescope. The technique used to find the planet was the effect of the planet’s gravity on the star – making it wobble.

The super-Earth planet in question is called GJ 667Cc. GJ 667C is the name of the star, GJ 667AB are a pair of orange K dwarfs that reside in the same solar system – yes, it’s a triple-star system – and GJ667Cb is another ‘super-Earth’ planet that has an orbit too close to the sun to be of a life-friendly temperature. The new planet discovered has an orbital period of 28.15 days and receives about 90% of the light that Earth gets. However, since this star gives off mostly infrared light, being an M-class dwarf star, the percentage of energy absorbed should be higher. This means the planet most likely absorbs the same amount of energy as good ol’ Mother Earth.

Anglada-Escudé, one of the leading scientists on the project, claims that, “This planet is the new best candidate to support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it.”

Of course, nothing can be confirmed until we get more information about the planets atmosphere – even though it has the same energy absorption as Earth, we don’t know enough yet to know if liquid water can actually be sustained on its surface.

But who knows? Only a century ago, the idea of being able to fly across the world in a few hours seemed a ridiculously impossible feat. Perhaps in another century, the idea of travelling a couple of light years might not be so hard? Maybe we can start populating the Universe and have a United Federation of Planets? Maybe the planet GJ 667Cc is already populated with inhabitants that are enslaved by a race of aliens that attach themselves to human brains? Maybe they’ve got a prime directive that they can’t violate, and we’re just some quaint little planet that doesn’t quite get it yet.

Let’s just make sure we rein them in when they decide to build robotic slaves.

[Via Science Daily]

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12 Responses to Super-Earth: A Candidate for Real-World Caprica?

  1. If it has a mass 4.5 times that of Earth, then when the aliens arrive here they bounce around like we did on the moon. Hey, that sounds eerily similar to the planet Krypton!

    • You may not be as heavy on GJ 667 Cc as intuition would suggest (knowing the exact force of gravity felt on its surface would require very precise measurements of the planet's mass and density. We only have a rough estimate of the first term, and really nothing but an educated guess about the second). Surface gravity does not increase in a linear relationship with increasing mass. For example, the Earth is roughly ten times as massive as Mars, but our surface gravity is not quite 3 times as strong. If we hold density constant, then surface gravity has a more-or-less linear relationship to the radius of the planet. Mars's radius is about half of Earth's, so if its density were equivalent, it would have about half the surface gravity. Since Mars is slightly less dense than Earth, the actual value is more like 40%. For a planet of equal density to the Earth to have even twice its surface gravity, its radius would need to be somewhere near twice that of the earth's and it's mass would need to be roughly ten times greater. Since we know so little about GJ 667 Cc, I would guess its surface gravity is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25-50% stronger than Earth's.

  2. "Maybe the planet GJ 667Cc is already populated with inhabitants that are enslaved by a race of aliens that attach themselves to human brains?" Please tell me that was an Animorphs reference.

    Also, I find this to be incredibly interesting. Dear NASA, please start working on light-speed travel, STAT.

  3. Heh, I just thought. It’d be awesome if aliens existed on that world.. and the females where really hot Twi’lek looking things :) I’d totally be Captain Kirk in this situation.

  4. It took at least tens of thousands of years (depending on how you define "human being") for human beings to close the gap from walking speed to the fastest speed that interplanetary robotic probes have achieved. In order to visit even the nearest star in something like a reasonable time frame, we will need to increase our maximum velocity by an equal order of magnitude. I'd say it's not impossible for us to close that gap, but its not likely to happen in the lifetimes of even our great-great-great-great grandchildren.

    • Yah, except that technology is evolving exponentially, and once we hit the singularity the game changes. We may be all able to live forever and teleport across the stars before we die for all we know.

  5. If there is Aliens I think they would like a lot like us only a few differences due to Evolution theory. An example would be different color blood perhaps, a extension of the DNA? Thicker ribs due to atmospheric pressure?