Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Planet Anonymous

I know what you're thinking. No, the planet above is not part of this week's Grand Rounds presentation. Although, I did think that the solar system theme was quite unique.

The Associated Press is reporting that astronomers have found a potentially habitable planet outside our solar system. Yes, a real planet. (Don't tell Pluto who got demoted to a dwarf planet named 134340. HA!)
"It's a significant step on the way to finding possible life in the universe," said University of Geneva astronomer Michel Mayor, one of 11 European scientists on the team that found the planet. "It's a nice discovery. We still have a lot of questions."
My question is pretty simple: What's the name of this rock, dude? There are potentially lots and lots of cool names out there to call this significant discovery. What did they come up with? Here it is -- 581 c. Doesn't that name just roll off your tongue? Sheesh!
The new planet is about five times heavier than Earth. Its discoverers aren't certain if it is rocky like Earth or if its a frozen ice ball with liquid water on the surface. If it is rocky like Earth, which is what the prevailing theory proposes, it has a diameter about 1 1/2 times bigger than our planet. If it is an iceball, as Mayor suggests, it would be even bigger.

Based on theory, 581 c should have an atmosphere, but what's in that atmosphere is still a mystery and if it's too thick that could make the planet's surface temperature too hot, Mayor said.

However, the research team believes the average temperature to be somewhere between 32 and 104 degrees and that set off celebrations among astronomers.

Until now, all 220 planets astronomers have found outside our solar system have had the "Goldilocks problem." They've been too hot, too cold or just plain too big and gaseous, like uninhabitable Jupiter.

The new planet seems just right — or at least that's what scientists think.
Is this science, or nursery rhymes? Goldilocks problem? Is that what they teach in science class or rocket science school? I should have taken more of those classes. Maybe I would have ended up at NASA. HA!

I'm going to give those guys and gals a little free advice here. I've got the name for the new planet: Planet Anonymous. It's cool. It's chic. It's hip. And, it's happening! A kind of name that's a cross between Sanjaya and Pimp My Planet - if you know what I mean.

If you look close in the picture above, you can already see that there's a McDonalds there (McBreakfasts are great for blood pressure) and a Wal-Mart (with a pharmacy and a minute clinic for all of your health needs -- NOT!). Maybe this new planet could be the site for the first interplanetary Blogaholics Anonymous meeting. What do you think?

By the way, if you look at my sidebar, you'll see that my site meter counter is getting dangerously close to 100,000 visitors. Could you be the person that sets me over the top? Check back and see. There's a secret prize for the 100,000 visitor to the Doctor Anonymous blog! (Actually not, but it sounded good, didn't it?)


SeaSpray said...

Hi Dr A - interesting post. it's truly amazing what scientists are discovering in space.

I love the idea of "the Goldilocks problem" and I guess that is what it comes down to. Would be awesome if they discovered life elsewhere. :)

Kirsten said...

I like Planet B-612 myself.

I do have the theory that if there is intelligent life on other planets, as humans our capacity to recognize it as such is severely limited.

Anonymous said...

This makes the Fermi paradox all the more fascinating. If, in our infinitesimal quantity of discovered planets there is already one with potentially favorable conditions for familiar life, where are they? Even allowing for the lightspeed barrier any creature that reproduced as fast as we do would fill our galaxy in a geologically relative eyeblink.

Where are they?

Ian said...

My vote is that the first person to set a real, human foot on the surface gets to name it anything he (let's be realistic here) wants. It doesn't even have to be his foot - he could have brought one along just for the ride. Like, in a box or something.

I say we name it Mongo. Or we could ask the inhabitants what they call it and then laugh at how funny it sounds in American.