Then felt I like some watcher of the skies; When a new planet swims into his ken*

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Below is a photo of a new planet discovered circling the star Fomalhaut 25 light years away. The newly discovered planet is thought to be 3 times the size of Jupiter.

Formalhaut

Jet Propulsion Lab press release here. Don't expect an imminent invastion of Fomalhautians since the star is only 200 to 300 million years old, so there has probably been not enough time for life to arise in that system yet. 

*apologies to John Keats

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  1. Looks more like the skies are watching us. Creepy.

  2. Saw this yesterday–many, many degrees of awesome. I predict that within a decade, we’ll be able to optically resolve an Earth-like planet (in an Earth-like orbit).

    Science and technology rule.

  3. Is that a mote…(gulp)…in god’s eye?

  4. “Is that a mote…(gulp)…in god’s eye?”

    That’s not his eye, JW.

  5. Holy fucking shit, Sauron can see us! Take the fucking ring off!

  6. Holy shit that’s beautiful

  7. There is no Dana, only Zuul

  8. That’s not his eye, JW.

    Yeah, but that book would have sold in stores with much less book kitch and a lot more leather goods for sale.

  9. Epsi, you win this one.

  10. Since Episiarch beat me to Sauron, I’ll go with starchild David Bowman.

  11. It’s amazing such a large and beautiful structure could form in the mere 6,000 years the universe as existed.

  12. Are you a god?

    Maybe, but Lamar, over there, can tell you where the gatekeeper is.

  13. Well, Star Child is a god. Which means that by us not finding TMA in 2001, my chance to evolve into a god has been radically diminished.

  14. Maybe, but Lamar, over there, can tell you where the gatekeeper is.

    Next time someone asks you if you’re a god, JW, you say yes!

  15. not finding TMA in 2001…

    That’s only because their Pan Am flight was delayed by a few million hours.

  16. Next time someone asks you if you’re a god, JW, you say yes!

    Oh Epi, stealing Ernie Hudson lines? That’s just a sad, little cry for help, isn’t it?

  17. Oh Epi, stealing Ernie Hudson lines? That’s just a sad, little cry for help, isn’t it?

    Little? That’s a big Twinkie cry for help.

  18. “Is that a mote…(gulp)…in god’s eye?”

    Moties love chocolate.
    …and our coffee will taste better when they get here.

  19. JW,

    Why oh why didn’t we bailout Pan Am? Pan Am: The Airline to the Gods.

  20. It’s amazing such a large and beautiful structure could form in the mere 6,000 years the universe as existed.

    Aspartame,
    Don’t you know anything? It didn’t form in 6k years. It was formed in seven days. Being part of the Heavens, would put it’s creation at day 0 in fact.

  21. Warren,

    Sorry, I always get all mixed up on mythology.

    But does this means it’s actually the spilt of Tiamat?

  22. “split blood of Tiamat”

    I am really losing at the Internets today.

    SELF-FAIL

  23. Don’t expect an imminent invastion of Fomalhautians since the star is only 200 to 300 million years old, so there has probably been not enough time for life to arise in that system yet.

    Are you kidding? That’s 33,000-50,000 times older than Earth. That’s plenty of time to make life.

    In all seriousness, a star 3 times the size of Jupiter probably will never have life (at least as we know it) because it’s almost certainly a gas giant. Maybe one of its moons could have life, but that’s it. Not to mention, at 25 light years away, by the time we get there, life could have evolved.

  24. It is only modern man that has been around for 6K years. The Earth is older than that, and the universe even older.

    I’m a pentacostal, I know about these things.

  25. Not to turn the conversation back to libertarianism, but….

    This is one of those amazing “look what we can do” moments that wouldn’t happen (for decades at least) without government spending. I’d have a hard time saying don’t do that with our tax money. How do I justify this while bashing, say, the National Endowment for the Arts?

  26. What do you mean by “3 times the size of Jupiter”? Wouldn’t 3 Jupiter masses be on the verge of stellar ignition? Maybe I’ll RTFA

  27. Why every science thread has to become a religion thread is beyond me.

    By the way, I think the lines are an optical effect and not actually real.

  28. Warren,

    Models of star formation suggest that Jupiter’s mass is only about one-eightieth of the mass needed for ignition

    I though it was much less than that as well.

  29. @Maurkov
    Just tell people you’re a Star Trek fan.

  30. How do I justify this while bashing, say, the National Endowment for the Arts?

    By recognizing that if I had the stolen 40% of my paycheck back, perhaps I would have built my own super-telescope by now.

    Ok, probably not. But adjust the scale and you see where I’m going.

  31. How do I justify this while bashing, say, the National Endowment for the Arts?

    Spin-off technologies from jamming a yam in your ass are few and far between.

    NSFW (but no actual yam jammin’)

  32. If I squint just so, I see the Virgin Mary in that image.

    That reminds me of a joke: Star Child, Q, and Galactus walk into a bar…

  33. I’d have a hard time saying don’t do that with our tax money.

    Not me. If you want to support it, donate your own money.

  34. The Sistine ceiling was painted without a government endowment, so I continue to believe space would be explored without one as well.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to SugarFree’s yam-jammin site.

  35. “Yam Jammin’ Vol II: Butter my Sweets.”
    Only on Pay Per View

  36. From the link:

    Her state of mind might best be summed up by this description of her trademark piece, We Keep our Victims Ready (1989):
    I smeared my body with chocolate, because I said in the piece, I’m a woman, and women are usually treated like shit. Then I covered myself with red candy hearts ‘because, after a woman is treated like shit, she becomes more lovable.’ After the hearts, I covered myself with bean sprouts, which smelled like semen and looked like semen ‘because, after a woman is treated like shit, and loved for it, she is jacked off on.’ Then I spread tinsel all over my body, like a Cher dress ‘because, no matter how badly a woman has been treated, she’ll still get it together to dress for dinner.’

    —–

    In a scene that sets the tone for her controversial works, Finley opens the book by recounting an appearance in Cologne Germany in 1981. The piece was a musical comedy in which Finley and her partner, Brian, played Eva Braun and Hitler. “There is no way to put this delicately,” she remembers, “I turned around and Brian was lapping up my shit.”

  37. SugarFree,
    Thanks. But the full quote is:

    Models of star formation suggest that Jupiter’s mass is only about one-eightieth of the mass needed for ignition, which occurs due to heating from internal gravitational collapse.

    The phrases “occurs due to heating” and “internal gravitational collapse” strikes me as confused and misleading. Stellar ignition is a nuclear process and should not be confused with ordinary combustion. And as far as I know “gravitational collapse” is reserved for gravity overcoming the strong nuclear force resulting in a black hole.

    I’ll accept that it takes eight Jupiters to make a star, but I’d like a better source before I have confidence in any number.

  38. Don’t expect an imminent invastion of Fomalhautians since the star is only 200 to 300 million years old, so there has probably been not enough time for life to arise in that system yet.

    If it was intelligently designed, they could already be on their way.

  39. Warren,

    one-eightieth

    Technically, it’s 80 Jupiters to make a star.

    It was my understanding that the mass is required to create enough pressure so that hydrogen could fuse into helium, not to create the combustion itself… i.e. the pressure jams two hydrogen atoms together hard enough to overcome the nuclear force to fuse into helium.

    My creative writing degree will defer to anyone with greater knowledge. I’m just remembering undergrad astronomy.

  40. Jupiter has adequate mass, provided that the monolith stimulates ignition.

  41. Pro Libertate,

    I know your game. You just want to be stuck in a spaceship with 1980s Helen Mirren.

  42. If Obama wins in 2012, I’m moving to Fomalhaut b, and I’m taking Guy Montag with me.

  43. Not me; I’m happily married. However, that sounds like a reasonably good plan for a single dude. She could stimulate mass ignition herself back then.

  44. Jupiter is no where near big enough to become a star. Many of the other extrasolar planets that have been discovered (but not directly visually resolved) are several times the mass of Jupiter.

  45. This is cool, but much more noteworthy is something The Bad Astronomer noted on his blog. It’s just a matter of time until we have proof of, and then a picture of, a terrestrial Earth-like planet at the proper distance from its star for liquid water to flow on its surface. In other words, we literally will have discovered another Earth.

    Just let that cook your noodle for a few seconds.

    Now think about what happens when the rest of the planet starts to grasp the implications of that.

  46. It’s just a matter of time until we have proof of … a terrestrial Earth-like planet. …Just let that cook your noodle for a few seconds.

    I dunno. Kinda seems like a 10-year-old boy seeing nipples in National Geographic. He’s still a long way from getting laid.

    At these distances, I can’t see it being much more than “neat”. No imagination I guess.

  47. FrBunny,

    Personally, I’m betting that medical technology will catch up with me in time for me to visit another planet. People! The Singularity is near!

  48. This is one of those amazing “look what we can do” moments that wouldn’t happen (for decades at least) without government spending. I’d have a hard time saying don’t do that with our tax money. How do I justify this while bashing, say, the National Endowment for the Arts?

    Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, has given a big chunk of cash to http://www.seti.org, to fund the construction and operation of a radiotelescope array at Hat Creek in California. This radiotelescope is dedicated to listening for signals from ET, a project which was specifically rejected by Congress a few years ago.

    Bill Gates ia well known for giving lots of money to fund anti-malaria efforts.

    Earlier on, Andrew Carnegie used his billions to buy most towns in the US libraries, and of course he paid for Carnegie Hall in NYC.

    It’s not at all obvious that only taxpayer support would allow projects like these. In fact, without most of the discretionary wealth of our society being taxed away at all levels, it is likely we would see a lot more philanthropy and funding of relatively unpopular projects like searching for planets around other stars, research into obscure diseases, and even paying for art that offends most people.

    Getting the government to pay for truly avant garde projects in science and the arts is in general more difficult than convincing one wealthy donor who happens to share your interests, to pay for your pet project.

  49. Indeed, it has been argued that the existence of NASA sucks the wind out of what could otherwise be a much stronger private space industry. NASA removed what would have been the biggest source of initial seed money for private efforts- the “hey, look what we can do!” awe and inspiration factor for the various space firsts.

    As it is, relatively cheep (tens of thousands of dollars) suborbital tourism is only a year or two away. And if that turns out to be the money machine may people are predicting (the initial flights are all much more expensive, and they’ve already booked hundreds), that could easily form the basis for an orbital operation a few years down the line.

    If you poke around the reason archives, I’m sure you’ll find stuff on Burt Rutaan. They’re the same guys who won the X-Prize for the first private sub-orbital spacecraft. They’re a pretty libertarian, anti-government bunch. They see themselves very much as a wanting to put NASA out of business some day.

  50. I’m betting that medical technology will catch up with me in time for me to visit another planet.

    Meh. I’m still waiting for a cell phone that gets a signal in my back bedroom. To do my part to bring on the inevitable future, however, I have taken to only dating men who wear two ties.

  51. Now think about what happens when the rest of the planet starts to grasp the implications of that.

    “Let’s kill it!”

  52. NASA removed what would have been the biggest source of initial seed money for private efforts- the “hey, look what we can do!” awe and inspiration factor for the various space firsts.

    The only space first achieved by NASA was the moon walk. You’d have to blame the Soviets for the rest. So what would private space travel try to achieve if NASA didn’t exist?

  53. Andy Craig,

    There’s some rumblings that the Obama administration will roll back some of our manned space initiatives. Whether it does or not, the political piece of this is problematic. NASA should be working on cheap access to space, but that’s a minor part of what they do, and they do that minor part very poorly. Which is why we can only hope that Musk, Allen, Bigelow, and other private actors will succeed in their endeavors.

  54. So what would private space travel try to achieve if NASA didn’t exist?

    Private Tang.

  55. So what would private space travel try to achieve if NASA didn’t exist?

    Zero-Gravity Sex Tourism

  56. It’s just a matter of time until we have proof of, and then a picture of, a terrestrial Earth-like planet at the proper distance from its star for liquid water to flow on its surface. In other words, we literally will have discovered another Earth.

    We already did that. Only backwards.

  57. In other words, we literally will have discovered another Earth.

    I’ll admit it’d be some foolie.

  58. Some have proposed creative alternatives to NASA. . . .

  59. It was my understanding that the mass is required to create enough pressure so that hydrogen could fuse into helium, not to create the combustion itself… i.e. the pressure jams two hydrogen atoms together hard enough to overcome the nuclear force to fuse into helium.

    More or less, yes. From the wiki on brown dwarfs:

    The standard mechanism for star birth is through the gravitational collapse of a cold interstellar cloud of gas and dust. As the cloud contracts it heats up. The release of gravitational potential energy is the source of this heat. Early in the process the contracting gas quickly radiates away much of the energy, allowing the collapse to continue. Eventually, the central region becomes sufficiently dense to trap radiation. Consequently, the central temperature and density of the collapsed cloud increases dramatically with time, slowing the contraction, until the conditions are hot and dense enough for thermonuclear reactions to occur in the core of the protostar. For most stars, gas and radiation pressure generated by the thermonuclear fusion reactions within the core of the star will support it against any further gravitational contraction. Hydrostatic equilibrium is reached and the star will spend most of its lifetime fusing hydrogen into helium as a main-sequence star.

    If, however, the mass of the protostar is less than about 0.08 solar mass, normal hydrogen thermonuclear fusion reactions will not ignite in the core. Gravitational contraction does not heat the small protostar very effectively, and before the temperature in the core can increase enough to trigger fusion, the density reaches the point where electrons become closely packed enough to create quantum electron degeneracy pressure.

    [. . .]

    A remarkable property of brown dwarfs is that they are all roughly the same radius as Jupiter. At the high end of their mass range (60-90 Jupiter masses), the volume of a brown dwarf is governed primarily by electron degeneracy pressure, as it is in white dwarfs; at the low end of the range (1-10 Jupiter masses), their volume is governed primarily by Coulomb pressure, as it is in planets. The net result is that the radii of brown dwarfs vary by only 10-15% over the range of possible masses. This can make distinguishing them from planets difficult.

  60. Didn’t recognize Keats in the headline. I was still grooving on the senses-shattering Kirby thread a few posts above, so you know which Watcher I was thinking of…

    I read the other day that Shostak at SETI says we’ll discover ET by 2025; and now this. I wonder if he has any inside information? It is ENTIRELY possible, for instance, that the Fomalhaut gas giant has a moon large enough to have evolved something we would recognize as life, perhaps intelligent as well. (In our own system, by contrast, we’re still wondering about Europa.)

    I’m beginning to think if I make it to 100, I’ll see some pretty miraculous things. If medical and space-transport sciences improve along the way, I may even be healthy enough to go to some of the places we discover. That would be grand; I’m crossing my fingers.

  61. Also, while it is not especially libertarian, I think that the great libertarian hero Jefferson would have used public funds to support space exploration just as contemporary nations used national funds to support global exploration and he himself purchased the Louisiana Territory and commissioned exploration of points further West. “Expanding the frontiers,” whether through geographic exploration or scientific research, seems to lie in the libertarian “twilight zone” of areas that many are uncomfortable leaving solely to the free market. Some days I would prefer for private interests to take a bigger or even dominant role — as in spaceflight, for example. Other days, I wonder whether certain areas of true progress (the Hubble telescope, for instance) would have existed as soon as they did without government intervention. Maybe they would have existed even SOONER, but would they have been put to the purposes of pure research, or would have the results of such research been deemed “proprietary” and locked away in some corporate R&D center? Such musings and the questions they inspire definitely test one’s sense of libertarianism and the courage of one’s libertarian convictions.

  62. Gentlemen, you know better. This is a statist discovery.

    Isn’t it your job to remind everyone how this discovery is merely the result of theft through taxation, and that a solely private venture would have had us living on Mars by now?

    Considering that the new Obama Presidency has already ruined America, you’re displaying far too much displaced pleasure.

    Get a hold of yourselves.

  63. Shit, too late. It seems that the discovery has even caused people to question their Libertarian convictions.

    The level of Libertarian purity has already been diminished due to this statist propaganda, and we’ve yet to even make it to Inauguration day.

    Thanks, Obama.

  64. Spin-off technologies from jamming a yam in your ass

    I YAM THAT I JAM.

  65. “Are you a god?”

    Yes, we are.

  66. The level of Libertarian purity has already been diminished due to this statist propaganda, and we’ve yet to even make it to Inauguration day.

    Drink?

  67. I see Famous Mortimer was so pleased with himself after that first clever observation that he couldn’t wait but four minutes to post essentially the same thing again. Or maybe he fears the first post was an insufficient demonstration of his wittiness. Either way, multiple purely sarcastic posts without the hint of an attempt to intelligently address the legitimate issue raised earlier fairly relegates him to troll status, if he wasn’t already.

  68. FrBunny wrote: “The Sistine ceiling was painted without a government endowment,”

    Whatchu talking about? Whaddya think the Papal States were?

  69. Our Famous Mortimer here is a tragic waste of a Mr. Show reference.

  70. Whaddya think the Papal States were?

    Good point. But the NEA doesn’t buy art or employ artists. It gives money to people who cannot earn a living through their work. A bit different than Michaelangelo’s situation.

    I knew my eighth-grade grasp of Renaissance history would ultimately do me in…

  71. NoStar | November 14, 2008, 11:54am | #
    It is only modern man that has been around for 6K years. The Earth is older than that, and the universe even older.

    I’m a pentacostal, I know about these things.

    You know about what things exactly. I recognize that proudly admitting yourself to be an excitable fool should count for something but expertise in any field isn’t one of them. Whatever apologetics your pastor came up with last year is nice and cute and and we’re all really proud of you for needing those apologetics so that you can sleep peacefully at night but you’re playing with adults here and we’re not very impressed with your games.

    mnuez

    P.S. The fact that you’re a fool should in no way discourage any Christian practices. Christians are (by and large) far more charitable, kind, family-oriented and societally-principled than are oh, say, Libertarians. But if you’re BOTH Christian AND Libertarian then by the hymen of Mary what the fuck do you have going for you?

    P.P.S. The fact that you misspelled “Pentecostal” offers a few leads…

  72. P.P.S. The fact that you misspelled “Pentecostal” offers a few leads…

    Wow! A Pentecostal that can spell!

  73. By this point, I am sure several tin foil hatters have anounced they are in touch with the inhabitants of these planets.

  74. Whether they ever find life there or not, I think Fomalhaut 25 should be considered an enemy planet.

  75. As you commute to work on Monday ask yourself what benefit you have received or will likely receive from the photograph of a gas giant in the Fomalhaut system.

    Then ask yourself, was it worth my tax dollars. Was it worth my neighbor’s tax dollars, he who wouldn’t give a rat’s ass for visual evidence of an extrasolar planet. I dunno what JPL spent on this particular astronomical masturbatory event but I’ll guess it’s in the 7-8 figure range.

    I’m a nerderrific geek as much as the next guy, I think this is really cool and I LOVE Hubble pictures, but I can’t morally justify spending confiscated money so astronomers can play.

  76. Now think about what happens when the rest of the planet starts to grasp the implications of that.

    Just like fossils, it’s Satan sticking big things in the sight of telescopes to trick us.

  77. You know about what things exactly. I recognize that proudly admitting yourself to be an excitable fool should count for something but expertise in any field isn’t one of them. Whatever apologetics your pastor came up with last year is nice and cute and and we’re all really proud of you for needing those apologetics so that you can sleep peacefully at night but you’re playing with adults here and we’re not very impressed with your games.

    Dude, it was a joke. Learn what those are.

  78. jefRo mob BITCHS SF CA NIGGA……….. DAT PIC GO HARD

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