Volume 93, Issue 52

Wednesday, December 1, 1999


Fund-raising success announced

$10 million question a no-brainer for council

Tissue investigation reveals no wrong-doing

Scientists identify six new planets

Speakers focus energy on human rights violations

Reform party deals with Ramsay

Caught on campus


Scientists identify six new planets

By Heather Buchan
Gazette Staff

Scientists announced Monday the discovery of six new planets, but many experts claim E.T. won't be calling home anytime soon.

The discovery in a distant solar system was made by a research team headed by Steven Vogt, an astronomy professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz.

"The detections were made with the Keck Telescope in Hawaii," Vogt said. "We monitor 530 stars throughout the year."

Vogt said the planets are the right distance from their central star, creating the possibility they may have liquid water with temperatures between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius which may harbor life.

John Landstreet, a professor of physics and astronomy at Western, said the Keck Telescope is one of the world's largest telescopes. Landstreet added the discovery of other planets helps scientists better understand how our solar system was formed.

David Gray, professor of physics and astronomy at Western, said there are two classes of planets – terrestrial, which are those of a similar mass to Earth and jovian, which are gaseous planets.

Twenty-eight planets have been detected so far, but only about half a dozen are deemed habitable, he said.

"A planet needs liquid water to be habitable. The planets cannot be too close to the stars or too far," Landstreet said.

"The first planet detections were made about four to five years ago," said J.J. Kavelaars, a research associate in physics and astronomy at McMaster Universtiy.

"The physical significance of the discoveries is small, but the philosophical significance is quite large."

Jim Moorehead, also a professor of physics and astronomy at Western, said finding life on planets would not be an easy task, Moorehead said. "The planets are surprisingly big and the solar systems are not terribly typical."

Vogt added it would be a long time before researchers see atomic species or molecular compounds on planets.

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