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Three New Planets For Puppis (No, I’m Not Making That Up)

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According to an article expected to be published in the journal Nature today, Geneva University’s Prof. Michael Mayor and Christopher Lovis, using the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher), have discovered planets in a solar system in the Argo Navis constellation (“the ship of the Argonauts”). The star (just slightly smaller than our own sun) is classified HD69830 and is located within the sub-constellation Puppis (“The Poop Deck”) some 41 light years away and can only be observed from the southern hemisphere.

The Swiss team based at the Geneva Observatory is renowned for having found more than 95 percent of the 180 solar systems discovered since the first was found eleven years ago. They used the HARPS, located in Chile’s Atacama Desert, to restudy this particular star, because last year astronomers at NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope found that it has a unique asteroid belt around it (the only star other than our own yet to be discovered with one). The study was to see if there were planets shepherding it, and the rocky belt is believed to be orbiting either between the second and third, or beyond the third, planet.

A closer study by the Swiss team revealed that the Neptune-sized planets are orbiting a sun remarkably like our own. This was done employing a Doppler system of observing the gravitational pull that planets exert on their parent star causing a measurable “wobble.” Recently the team has refined the technique to the point where lower-mass planets are found just as easily as the larger gas giants.

The closest planet has a mass of about ten times that of earth and appears to be like a giant Mercury with a solid core. It has a very swift orbit of only about nine days, approximately seven million miles from its star.

The second planet is about 12 times that of Earth, seventeen million miles from its star, and has an equally swift orbit measured at only around 32 days. It also appears to have a rocky core.

The outermost planet orbits in about 197 days in what’s referred to as the “habitable zone” where its distance from its sun (60 million miles compared to Earth’s 93 million), available light, and approximate temperature might support life. In fact it’s the smallest planet to date yet found within such a zone. It is about 18 times the mass of the earth and has a rocky core with possible ice on the surface, but is shrouded in a thick and high-pressure atmosphere possibly made up of mostly hydrogen. It’s improbable that life could exist there however, because the massive gravitational field and atmospheric pressure would crush it even down to a mere cell’s level.

David Charbonneau of Harvard University is quoted as saying, “The architecture of this particular planetary system bears some intriguing similarities to that of our own solar system.”

The system is also interesting because it’s the first one discovered not to have a gas giant such as Jupiter orbiting it.

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About Jet Gardner

I like collecting books, music, movies, chess sets and friends
  • RJ Elliott

    Cool article. One question.

    You wrote:

    “It is about 18 times the mass of the earth and has a rocky core with possible ice on the surface, but is shrouded in a think [sic] and high-pressure atmosphere possibly made up of mostly hydrogen.”

    An atmosphere made up of mostly hydrogen? Like, H2?

    I understand that, with sufficiently high gravity/atmospheric pressure, it is certainly possible for even a relatively small planet (with a large mass) to retain its elemental hydrogen (which would naturally combine in a covalent bond to form H2).

    But wouldn’t that high level of pressure, along with the large amounts of energy the planet receives from a star only 60 million miles away, lead to much of that hydrogen combining with other (presumably) plentiful surface elements (like oxygen, sulfur, chlorine, nitrogen, etc.)? And if so, wouldn’t the planet’s atmosphere eventually become comprised of something other than mostly H2?

    Or is this a relatively young solar system, where this process has not had enough time to occur yet?

  • Ruvy from Jerusalem

    Interesting – very interesting – 180 solar systems found with 179 having a gas giant orbiting around the star (“Pumbaa, with you everything is gas”).

    The “small” planet on the poop deck that is in the area from this star that might support life has 18 times our mass. Maybe the scientits can correct me, but doesn’t that mean that someone weighing 100 lbs. on Earth wold weigh 1,800 lbs. on this planet? Wheww! And, to go with it all, a cloud of asteroids…

  • Jet in Columbus

    RJ, a good friend of mine e-mailed me the journal Nature along with several others knowing I’m an astronomy nut. I’m as perplexed too, but here’s a quote from another from the Discover Channel’s site Someone did a beautiful artist’s rendering of the system, but apparently it’s too big to include with this article…

    “Although the planet’s location could theoretically support life, researchers believe it is wrapped in an extensive hydrogen atmosphere and probably not suitable for life as we know it.”

    I leave you to your own conclusions.


  • Jet in Columbus

    thanks Ruvy, At that gravity the mantle would be so hard anything capable of life would be crushed. Even if a soft crust was discovered, anything would be drawn directly down through it, so at best you’d have some very strange high-gravity earthworms or fish capable of living in liquid hydrodgen???

    That’s 90 percent joke and 10 percent conjecture.
    I’m glad you liked this article better. What’d you wife think?

  • Jet in Columbus

    Thanks for the publish Mr. Matt Sussman, now you’re scaring me… I thought you didn’t like my stuff?

    Only kidding.
    Thanks again

    Solus mei sententia

  • Jet in Columbus

    Actually RJ under the right conditions the hydrogen atmosphere might be ignited to form a double star system, not uncommon.

    I guess we better set up an outpost to guard against wayward Klingon and Romulan phaser bursts.

    ha ha

  • Ruvy from Jerusalem

    Jet, I enjoyed both articles – my wife commented that “this article was better, thank you.”

    “at best you’d have some very strange high-gravity earthworms or fish capable of living in liquid hydrodgen???”

    Years and years ago, scientists speculated on huge gasworm type creatures flying through Jupiter’s atmosphere that would never hit surface but survive the terrible storms that afflict the planet/failed star?.

  • Jet in Columbus

    My God Ruvy! They’re spreading across the universe!!!

  • RJ Elliott


    Double-star systems are very common, indeed.

    Question: Is the idea that Jupiter is a “failed” star merely the domain of science fiction (like the 2001/2010 movies)? Or are there some reputable scientists who strongly believe that Jupiter could have become a companion star to our own Sun, but didn’t for some reason?

  • Jet in Columbus

    The ignition of Jupiter at the end of 2010 is one of my favorite plot twists of all time. RJ I highly recommend Clarke’s “3001 the final odyssey” if you haven’t read it you’ll love it. The plot twist from 2001 in it will thrill you.

    It’s my opinion that Jupiter had the potential, but is too far distant from Sol. I wrote a story in highschool about millions of years in the future how as our sun was dying, we ignited Jupiter to survive, because we thought it was a safe distince from Sol as it expended in it’s death throws, but we were wrong.

    David Letterman pointed out an interesting fact. did you know Earth is the only planet not named after a God?

    For some reason that never dawned on me.

    I’m for more interested in our asteroid zone and what it potentioally used to be. For instance it’s within our habitable zone, and wouldn’t it be interesting if it was a planet that held life in our solar system millions of years before Earth, and when it was destroyed they moved to Mars, found it uninhabitable and so they settled on Earth?

  • RJ Elliott

    “I’m for more interested in our asteroid zone and what it potentioally used to be. For instance it’s within our habitable zone, and wouldn’t it be interesting if it was a planet that held life in our solar system millions of years before Earth, and when it was destroyed they moved to Mars, found it uninhabitable and so they settled on Earth?”

    Very interesting. But what of the fossil record? And where are the buried ruins of this ancient and highly-advanced civilization?

    And simply pointing out the supposedly-incredible astronomical technologies of the Incas and ancient Egyptians isn’t an answer that will get you very far, outside of an Art Bell interview…

  • Jet in Columbus

    It’s just a personal fantasy, I didn’t say it was fact. Besides, we’re still looking for signs of Noah and Moses etc, Over millions of years of geological upheavals it’s possible it all was plowed under. After all what about the huge volcanos on Mars, and the catastrophic event that took Mars’ atmosphere would have taken all traces too. Mars at one time had a lot more water than it does in its polar ice at present, which leads me to believe that something happened to destroy that and “un” teraformed it.

  • RJ Elliott

    I believe Mars probably used to have life, even if it was only of the single-celled kind.

    And it may still hold life, below the soil, or under the polar ice.

    And Olympus Mons is one big mofugga. But could a major eruption long ago have resulted in such severe damage to the Martian atmosphere that life was forced to go underground or else perish?

  • Jet in Columbus

    Think about what existed on the surface of the Pacific coast subduction zone before it was either plowed under or became the innard of some mountain. No signs left there, right?

  • JR

    I’m for more interested in our asteroid zone and what it potentioally used to be.

    Probably just more asteroids. It’s not clear that the presence of Jupiter would ever allow a full-sized planet to form there. (That’s assuming Jupiter was always in its present position…)

    The main thing that determines whether a ball of gas can sustain fusion is its mass. Jupiter is not near massive enough. What you see at the end of 2010 is a lot of mass being added (in a way that current science would suggest is not possible, for whatever that’s worth).

  • Jet in Columbus

    suppose when the moon was formed by the collision of the planet that hit earth, that Mars was on the other side of the sun safely out of the way. what if we weren’t the only one it hit? Suppose it bounced off of us, tore the moon off our mantal, then like a 3 rail shot hit something else careening out of the solar system, possbily attracted to Jupiter’s gravity.

    I disagree that the asteroid belt was always a collection of asteriods. That much mass would have to attract itself together in some form. What coolesce into only chunks and then stop there? I’m more inclined to think it was all a solid mass that was destroyed somehow.

    I also think there’s too much mass in the belt for it to be just one object, and aslo too much mass to be shepherded by Jupiter and Mars alone.

    If it was comets and other matter, it’d have been sucked in by Jupiter’s gravity, or would’ve just kept right on going on to the sun, where if it was a planet it would’ve tended to dtay in the orbit after it was destroyed.

    I’m to sleepy to think straight. I’ll wake up tomorrow, read this and go “What the?

    thanks for the great dialogue, I’m off to bed…

  • Duane

    Look it up. The total mass of the belt is about 4% of the Moon’s mass. Not much planet-forming potential there.

    The old idea that the belt was once a planet has fallen from favor. Orbital mechanics holds the key to understanding what happened. The relative distances of Jupiter and the belt put them into an orbital resonance that pumps enough of the asteroids into unstable orbits, disallowing coalescence, since low relative velocities would be needed. The belt is now thought to be left over junk from the nebula from which the planets formed.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Not if you factor in that the bulk of the destroyed planet either was sucked into Jupiter’s gravity well and either hit the planet or cooalesced to form one or more of its moons, it might also explain what happened to Mars’ atmosphere after chunks hit it ripping it away, and why pieces of Mars have been discovered here on Earth.

    Everyone has a valid theory

    don’t “puppis” on mine
    and I won’t “puppis” on your’s

  • JR

    Jet in Columbus: I disagree that the asteroid belt was always a collection of asteriods. That much mass would have to attract itself together in some form. (Why) coolesce into only chunks and then stop there?

    Indeed, if there were a planet there previously, why hasn’t it reformed?

    As Duane indicated, the current theory is that the presence of Jupiter keeps the asteroids sufficiently churned up that they smash into each other too often to allow anything very large to accrete. At least until we have reason to revise the history of the solar system, we assume that was always the case.

    Everyone has a valid theory

    No, some people (not you) have really dumb, thoughtless theories. That’s why we need an education system.

  • Duane

    Shades of Velikovsky.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Thank you JR, and please try to keep in mind that it was 2:49AM when I wrote that!

  • Jet in Columbus

    Velikovsky? Who the hell was/is Velikovski? That Hack? that Shrink in training? that wacko who spouts strange and meaningless fiction???

    He’s the last I’d follow the thoughts of, or plagarize if that’s what you’re implying!

    …”Under the weight of many arguments, I came to the conclusion–about which I no longer have any doubt–that it was the planet Venus, at the time still a comet, that caused the catastrophe of the days of Exodus…

    When Venus sprang out of Jupiter as a comet and flew very close to the earth, it became entangled in the embrace of the earth. The internal heat developed by the earth and the scorching gases of the comet were in themselves sufficient to make the vermin of the earth propagate at a very feverish rate. Some of the plagues [mentioned in Exodus] like the plague of the frogs…or of the locusts, must be ascribed to such causes….

    The question arises here whether or not the comet Venus infested the earth with vermin which it may have carried in its trailing atmosphere in the form of larvae together with stones and gases. It is significant that all around the world people have associated the planet Venus with flies…

    The ability of many small insects and their larvae to endure great cold and heat and to live in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen renders not entirely improbable the hypothesis that Venus (and also Jupiter, from which Venus sprang) may be populated by vermin….”

    Oy vay

  • Jet in Columbus

    Now that that’s settled, we need to come up with suitable names for the star and its planets.

    HD69830 A, B, and C is hardly suitable. It sounds like a poor kid that was named after his zip code because his father was protesting the everyone was being numbered! “Hi, my name is HD69830 Jr.”

    Puppis comes out smelling poopy, as in poop deck the constelation it’s in. “Greetings Earthling I am a Puppi!” ….Nahhhh

    It could be the child of the Dog Star, and we could name it Puppy?….. Nah too many bitch jokes…

    I’ll have to think about this.

  • Duane


  • Jet in Columbus

    Oh give me a break! Is that you favorite scientist, god, astronomer, girlfriend or you drag name?

  • Duane

    Oh, you’re not familiar with the B-52s classic? I think it’s high time that they get to name a planet. They deserve it.

    Besides, I am my favorite scientist, and it wouldn’t do to name the planet … uh … Duane. There’s no ring to it.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Fair enough… :=)

  • Jet in Columbus

    If we could get a concensus, wouldn’t it be cool if we could contact star registry and actually name it? Come on! Lets here some suggestions.

  • Jet in Columbus

    From the Rock Group Klaatu (famous for “Calling Occuppants of Interplanetary Craft before the Carpenters ruined it) we have this little ditty…

    Late last night
    While wishing on a star
    Down from the sky
    Came a man in a car
    He said “Get in Jackson
    Come on, let’s go for a ride”
    Outta sight

    Sitting in a cockpit
    Strapped down in a chair
    I said “Hey, tell me
    What’s that over there?”
    He said “Meet my computer
    He’s a friendly son-of-a-gun”
    And we’re having fun

    Playing cards on Venus
    In a cloudy room
    Pass a glass of ammonia
    I’ve got to get off soon
    Sunbathing on Mercury
    Or jamming on Jupiter
    Which do you prefer?

    It’s getting pretty late
    I got to go home
    Nice to have met you
    What’s your telephone?
    Maybe soon I’ll call you
    If I can afford the fare
    It’s long distance out there

    Anus of Uranus
    He’s a friend of mine
    He’s a first rate party
    And a real fine time

    Farrrrrrrrr out man!”

  • Jet in Columbus

    Okay Duanne #24 after reading this, maybe we should name it Claire?…

    The Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland will award the 2006 Chabot Science Award to Claire Max, professor of astronomy and astrophysics and director of the Center for Adaptive Optics at UCSC. The award will be presented at the Chabot Space & Science Center’s Gala on Saturday, May 20.

    Claire Max and other CfAO scientists designed and built an adaptive optics system for the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

    The $5,000 award honors excellence in the field of scientific and technological discovery and is in recognition of Max’s work in adaptive optics, a technology that can remove the blurring effects of turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere, allowing telescopes on the ground to see as clearly as if they were in space. Max has been active in the development of advanced adaptive optics systems for current and future large ground-based telescopes and has observed nearby active galactic nuclei (galaxies with black holes in their cores), the planet Neptune, and Saturn’s moon, Titan.

  • Duane

    Yeah, I know her. She deserves it. Planet Claire. It has a ring to it.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Duanne, I’m impressed, do you know her of do you know of her?

  • RJ Elliott

    I thought the prevailing theory about the formation of the Asteroid Belt was that there was some leftover matter between the four small, inner, rocky planets and the four large, outer, gaseous planets after the initial formation and cooling of the Solar System. This matter was then unable to form into a fifth small, inner, rocky planet due to the gravity of massive Jupiter. (And whatever hydrogen and helium that was around in this orbital plane lacked the gravity of a full planet to hold it, and therefore dissipated into space.)

    BTW, I do not consider Pluto to be a real “planet.” The only thing it has going for it, IMO, is that it has a moon. Other than that, it’s just a big ol’ comet, an Oort Cloud castoff…

  • Jet in Columbus

    You’re a bit behind the times there RJ, actually Pluto has three, possibly four moons

    This year, the Hubble Space Telescope may well have detected two further members of the Pluto system. Provisionally designated S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2, the two potential new moons are seen orbiting in a counterclockwise direction about 44,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) from Pluto in these deep Hubble images recorded only three days apart. The diminutive and faint companions are also apparently detected on Hubble images of Pluto from 2002, but this coming February follow-up observations are planned in an effort to confirm the discovery of the new moons. Compared to Pluto’s and Charon’s diameters of 2,300 and 1,300 kilometers respectively, these moons are estimated to be between 60 and 200 kilometers across. Well within the Kuiper Belt, an extensive region beyond the orbit of Neptune, the Pluto system could be the first quadruple Kuiper Belt object known.

  • RJ Elliott

    Speaking of music, wouldn’t “The Oort Cloud Castoffs” be a killer name for a band? ;-P

  • RJ Elliott

    I didn’t know that Jet. Thanks for the info! :)

  • Jet in Columbus

    For the latest Hubble images click here

  • Jet in Columbus

    Yes RJ, that’d make a good name for a group, or even an album cover.

  • Jet in Columbus

    In point of fact, at one time Pluto and Charon were considered to be a “double Planet” system because of the closeness in size to eachother.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Just so we can move on from the distraction, from we have this…

    “It has been estimated that the total mass of the Main Asteroid Belt may total less than 1/1000th of the mass of the Earth. Indeed, if all asteroids down to the size of meter- or yard-sized boulders or less were combined together, the resulting object would measure less than 1,300 to 1,500 km (810 to 930 miles) across, which is less than one third to one half the diameter of the Earth’s Moon. The Main Asteroid Belt is only a small remnant of the material that once resided in the region between Mars and Jupiter, but once may have contained between two to 10 Earth masses of material (Dan Durda, “Ask Astro,” Astronomy, December 2000). However, T-Tauri-type Solar winds from a very young Sun, gravitational perturbations from Jupiter developing nearby, and dynamic interactions with other large planetesimals and protoplanets during the first 100 million years, and continuing collisional grinding over the following 4.5 billion years after the formation of the planets, interfered with the formation of a substantial, single planet and caused most of the mass to be lost to the rest of the Solar System and interstellar space.


  • Jet in Columbus

    Okay, back to subject… some suggestions for that star’s name and also the planets?

  • RJ Elliott

    How about Bowser, Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi?

    Sure, it’s silly. But why not?

  • Jet in Columbus

    Who’s to say RJ after all we do have a planet named Pluto!

  • Jet in Columbus

    RJ I hope you like my new article. I put a lot of research into it.

  • RJ Elliott

    I’m lazy. What’s the link?

  • Jet in Columbus

    At the moment it’s at the very top of the fresh comments list

  • Jet in Columbus

    Across your open mind,
    I trace erratic lines,
    In motion and in time.

    I fought a battle won,
    To the surface of the sun,
    Through fires on and on

    It’s only you
    It can’t be me
    For I myself refuse to be
    I am someone you’ll never know
    I am the little neutrino

    Solus is not far away
    It’s face is brighter than a day
    So don’t turn me away

    It’s only you
    It can’t be me
    For I myself refuse to be
    I am someone you’ll never know
    I am the little neutrino

    And now I’m passing through
    The one who is known as you
    And yet, you’ll never know I do
    I really do

    As performed by Klaatu

  • RJ Elliott

    Thanks for the link!

  • Jet in Columbus

    You’re most welcome, Enjoy I worked hard on it

  • -E

    Congrats, this article was picked for one of this week’s Ed Picks. Keep up the good work.

  • Jet in Columbus

    Oh Cool! Thanks E, and thanks for the encouragement

  • Jet in Columbus

    ArchBingBat asked if the only thing I write about has to do with sexual orientation, Hmmmmmmmm?

  • Jet in Columbus

    Just ignore me, I can’t sleep again tonight…

  • Jet In Columbus

    An international research team led by Prof. Michael Kramer of the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK, has used three years of observations of the “double pulsar”, a unique pair of natural stellar clocks which they discovered in 2003, to prove that Einstein’s theory of general relativity – the theory of gravity that displaced Newton’s – is correct to within a staggering 0.05%. Their results are published on the14th September in the journal Science and are based on measurements of an effect called the Shapiro Delay.

    The double pulsar system, PSR J0737-3039A and B, is 2000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Puppis. It consists of two massive, highly compact neutron stars, each weighing more than our own Sun but only about 20 km across, orbiting each other every 2.4 hours at speeds of a million kilometres per hour. Separated by a distance of just a million kilometres, both neutron stars emit lighthouse-like beams of radio waves that are seen as radio “pulses” every time the beams sweep past the Earth. It is the only known system of two detectable radio pulsars orbiting each other. Due to the large masses of the system, they provide an ideal opportunity to test aspects of General Relativity:
    * Gravitational redshift: the time dilation causes the pulse rate from one pulsar to slow when near to the other, and vice versa.

    * Shapiro delay: The pulses from one pulsar when passing close to the other are delayed by the curvature of space-time. Observations provide two tests of General Relativity using different parameters.

    * Gravitational radiation and orbital decay: The two co-rotating neutron stars lose energy due to the radiation of gravitational waves. This results in a gradual spiralling in of the two stars towards each other until they will eventually coalesce into one body.

    By precisely measuring the variations in pulse arrival times using three of the world’s largest radio telescopes, the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, the Parkes radio-telescope in Australia, and the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA, the researchers found the movement of the stars to exactly follow Einstein’s predictions. “This is the most stringent test ever made of General Relativity in the presence of very strong gravitational fields — only black holes show stronger gravitational effects, but they are obviously much more difficult to observe”, says Kramer.

    Since both pulsars are visible as radio emitting clocks of exceptional accuracy, it is possible to measure their distances from their common centre of gravity. “As in a balanced see-saw, the heavier pulsar is closer to the centre of mass, or pivot point, than the lighter one and so allows us to calculate the ratio of the two masses”, explains co-author Ingrid Stairs, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “What’s important is that this mass ratio is independent of the theory of gravity, and so tightens the constraints on General Relativity and any alternative gravitational theories.” adds Maura McLaughlin, an assistant professor at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV, USA.

    Though all the independent tests available in the double pulsar system agree with Einstein’s theory, the one that gives the most precise result is the time delay, known as the Shapiro Delay, which the signals suffer as they pass through the curved space-time surrounding the two neutron stars. It is close to 90 millionths of a second and the ratio of the observed and predicted values is 1.0001 +/- 0.0005 – a precision of 0.05%.

    A number of other relativistic effects predicted by Einstein can also be observed. “We see that, due to its mass, the fabric of space-time around a pulsar is curved. We also see that the pulsar clock runs slower when it is deeper in the gravitational field of its massive companion, an effect known as “time dilation”.

    A key result of the observations is that the pulsar’s separation is seen to be shrinking by 7mm/day. Einstein’s theory predicts that the double pulsar system should be emitting gravitational waves – ripples in space-time that spread out across the Universe at the speed of light. “These waves have yet to be directly detected “, points out team member Prof. Dick Manchester from the Australia Telescope National Facility, “but, as a result, the double pulsar system should lose energy causing the two neutron stars to spiral in towards each other by precisely the amount that we have observed – thus our observations give an indirect proof of the existence of gravitational waves.”

    Michael Kramer concludes; “The double pulsar is really quite an amazing system. It not only tells us a lot about general relativity, but it is a superb probe of the extreme physics of super-dense matter and strong magnetic fields but is also helping us to understand the complex mechanisms that generate the pulsar’s radio beacons.” He concludes; “We have only just begun to exploit its potential!”