Thursday, October 14, 2010

Doubts About that Earth-Like Planet

I thought the discoverers of Gliese 581g were over the top in their claim that the planet probably has life, but now some other astronomers have come forward to say that the whole thing is over the top:
A group of Swiss astronomers announced yesterday at the International Astronomical Union’s annual meeting in Turin, Italy, that they couldn’t detect the “goldilocks” exoplanet found by U.S. researchers a few weeks ago. That news of that planet, dubbed Gliese 581g, generated much excitement, since researchers said it was only three times the size of Earth, and it appeared to lie in the habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface.

It didn’t take long for some cold water to be thrown on the astronomical community and the space-loving public. Presenter Francesco Pepe and his colleagues claim that it will be years before the data is clear enough to see such a planet: “We do not see any evidence for a fifth planet … as announced by Vogt et al.,” Pepe wrote Science in an e-mail from the meeting.

I suppose those claims triggered the skeptical impulses of a lot of people.

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