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Doubt cast on Gliese 581g planet

October 13, 2010

 

Credit: Lynette Cook/NSF

 

Planet hunting is a delicate and tedious science. A very strong emphasis is placed on multiple teams of astronomers being able to replicate the results of the first team to announce any kind of discovery. If another team is unable to replicate the findings of the first, it casts a serious shadow of doubt on the validity of the initial findings. That’s exactly what is happening with the Gliese 581g exoplanet that was announced just last week. Sadly, a team that works directly with the HARPS detector on the 3.6m telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile has been unable to confirm the existence of Gliese 581f or g. They have access to more data than the team who initially announced the discovery, and they can’t find a clear enough signal in the background “noise” of the observations to confirm this planet. As more teams run computer models and look at observations from other telescopes with radial velocity planet-finding instruments, maybe we’ll get a clearer picture of whether these two planets actually exist. (Via Universe Today via Dynamics of Cats blog)

Don’t worry though, the Kepler mission will undoubtedly start popping out earth-twin discoveries in another year or so, mark my word.

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