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Hubble Reinforces Planet Formation Theory 79

Posted by timothy
from the music-of-the-spheres dept.
eldavojohn writes "Physorg is running an interesting article on the most recent of Hubble's accomplishments. It has provided us evidence supporting that which Emmanuel Kant proposed over 200 years ago — that planets do indeed form from disks of gas and dust that surround stars. The trick, apparently, was observing many cases where a star's planet forms on the exact same circumstellar disk as the dust and gas. Hubble also aided the researchers in determining the weight of many extrasolar planets. Some had contended that these were not planets but rather brown dwarf stars — which is determined by measuring their weight." Update: 10/12 23:08 GMT by T : That's not the only theory Hubble's recent observation's have supported: read on below for a bit more.
somegeekynick writes "Hubble has spotted a bunch of little galaxies, nicknamed Spiderweb, over 10 billion light-years away in the process of merging. This observation supports the so-called 'bottom-up' theory of galaxy formation, according to which smaller clumps of matter collided and merged with each other to form larger galaxies during early stages of the universe's evolution."
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Hubble Reinforces Planet Formation Theory

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  • Mass != Weight (Score:5, Informative)

    by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @10:56AM (#16409433)
    The article means mass, not weight: A star's weight is effetively zero, as it is in a microgravity environment. It's mass is trillions of kilograms.

    Sorry, just needed to be pendantic for a moment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cplusplus (782679)
      The article discussed mass measurements, and the word weight appears nowhere in the text. I think the submitter made a classic Physics 101 mistake, not the article.
      • I meant Slashdot article, not the article the Slashdot article refers to... (Since, after all, we all know no one reads those, right? ;) )

        Anyway, thanks for the correction.
      • by EggyToast (858951)
        The submitter seems like a class act all around, as they not only goofed on weight!=mass, but the link goes to the "print this story" version, which prompts the user to print the story.
        • ...the link goes to the "print this story" version, which prompts the user to print the story.

          I was about to comment on how the advertising-is-teh-devil crowd would bitch about the number of pages the regular version spanned, but the regular version [physorg.com] is only one page, too.

    • Re:Mass != Weight (Score:4, Informative)

      by balsy2001 (941953) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:07AM (#16409591)
      You are many orders of magnitude off on the mass of a star. The mass of the earth is 5^24 kilograms, so use that as a reference point The sun is ~ 1 billion times the mass of the earth.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by balsy2001 (941953)
        So I should have checked my facts BEFORE submitting. The mass of the sun ~ 333000 times the mass of the earth.
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
      <PEDANTIC>That's quadrillions of grams, or billions of tons.</PEDANTIC>
      • by Dr Caleb (121505)
        <PEDANTIC>That's quadrillions of grams, or billions of tons.</PEDANTIC>

        <PEDANTIC>"Tons" is a measure of weight. "Tonnes", is what I believe you were looking for.</PEDANTIC>
    • by trongey (21550)
      The article means mass, not weight: A star's weight is effetively zero, as it is in a microgravity environment. It's mass is trillions of kilograms.

      On the other hand, weight is a measure of one object's gravitational attraction to another. The measured wobble of these stars is induced by said gravitational attraction. Therefore, HST is helping to determine the weight of suspected planets.
  • from TFA:

    has at last confirmed what Kant and scientists have long predicted: that planets form from debris disks around stars.

    Again, "modern" scientists jumping to unsupported conclusions. Simply observing a dust cloud and a planet in the same orbital plain around the same star doesn't prove the planet formation theory. Until they find a dust cloud containing a proto-planet in the process of condensing, the theory is still unproven.
    • by peragrin (659227) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:06AM (#16409569)
      of course do you really know that the planet they found wasn't a proto planet, in the process of being formed?

      The onyl way to be certian is to go visit the planet.

      Now where's my hyperspace drive.

      • by prgrmr (568806)
        The article stated that the dust cloud and the gas giant were in different orbits. How precisely we are currently able to measure the boundry of the dust cloud is probably the key question. That, and what's the ratio of gas to dust in the cloud?

        There's possibly a Nobel prize waiting for the person who can produce the formula for planet creation that accounts for the mass and rotation speed of the star; the mass, area, composition, rotation speed, and over-all gravimetric effect of the dust cloud; and th
        • by rca66 (818002)
          The article stated that the dust cloud and the gas giant were in different orbits.

          Where? Can you quote it? I would be intersted to see, where they ascribe an orbit to a disk.

    • Theories of very hard to observe things are built up by weight of evidence. Currently study the Kuiper Belt is providing a lot of information, and as telescopes improve we find more and more about small objects in our own solar system. But if we wait till we have evidence of an object orbiting another star accreting mass from a dust cloud, that could take thousands of years.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Again, "modern" scientists jumping to unsupported conclusions.

      Nobody did that, you just have no idea what you're talking about.

      The theory had a major loophole in it because nobody had ever before been able to observe a planet formation on the same plane as it's sun's disk of dust and gas. This find goes a long way toward closing that loophole and, when combined with all prior evidence for the theory, also goes a long way to validating it's accuracy to the point of virtual certainty.

      I have no idea why you fe

      • by prgrmr (568806)
        The new observation does, indeed, go a long way to supporting the current theory of planet formation. However, it is far from a smoking gun. The article doesn't state if there's sufficient observable evidence to support the conclusion that this planet came from this dust cloud. If that's not the case, then we have no "virtual certainty", just more "probably" data points.

        As for the "glib stab", presenting conclusions in the face of non-conclusive evidence calls for questioning, and any ethical scientis
    • by rca66 (818002)

      Until they find a dust cloud containing a proto-planet in the process of condensing, the theory is still unproven.

      Due to the time scales on which this happens, this is just impossible. How do you want to oberserve a process, which takes longer as our civilization exists? (And btw: how would you tell a proto-planet from a planet?) Similar to the way astrophysicists have confirmed the theory of stellar evolution, you have to find examples of systems in different stages. They have planet systems without de

      • by prgrmr (568806)
        How do you want to oberserve a process, which takes longer as our civilization exists?

        Obviously we cannot observe the entire process, but an agreed-upon mid-point would certainly do.

        And btw: how would you tell a proto-planet from a planet?

        I hope there's already a general description for when a group of matter within a dust-cloud would be considered a planet, or planet-like, or at least planet forming. That would be a conclusive smoking gun to justify the theory as now being an observed working meth
        • by rca66 (818002)

          Obviously we cannot observe the entire process, but an agreed-upon mid-point would certainly do.

          Ahem, yes something like - a planet inside a disk of dust for instance...

          I hope there's already a general description for when a group of matter within a dust-cloud would be considered a planet, or planet-like, or at least planet forming. That would be a conclusive smoking gun to justify the theory as now being an observed working method.

          Your notion of a "smoking gun" is a bit too simple. Scientific the

        • by Kagura (843695)
    • Very funny. So I guess it's sheer coincidence that the planet's orbital tilt just happens to be the same as the surrounding dust ring's? Maybe you should actually read the article before presuming that you have the authority to question astronomers on matters which they've spent years studying, while you're lucky to get a few minutes'-worth of exposure to them on a weekly basis on Internet news aggregators.
    • And evidence to support your theory? Evidence which negates the currently accepted theory? Evidence which can be readily reproduced by scientists skeptical about your theory?

      I thought not.

      Not all scientists accept Kant's theories regarding planetary evolution as correct. Even the scientists who do accepts Kant's theories as correct (and they are the overwhelming majority) will be the first to admit that they are theories. That's the nature of science.

      Yes, the theory is still unproven - but it is well

  • by WndrBr3d (219963) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:06AM (#16409575) Homepage Journal
    So does this article back up the claim that Pluto isn't a planet, but more a free floating dwarf planet that was captured by our suns gravitational pull? I had read an article that supported the theory because it stated that Pluto was the only "planet" that didn't orbit on the same circumstellar disk as the rest of our solar systems planets.
    • by imsabbel (611519)
      This claim doesnt need backing up, its entirely obvious when you look at the orbit parameters.
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:53AM (#16410261) Journal
        This claim doesnt need backing up, its entirely obvious when you look at the orbit parameters.
        Just as the sun orbits the earth, which is entirely obvious if you observe its track through the sky.

        I happen to agree that it's most likely that Pluto is a captured object, but another theory out there is that Pluto formed the same as the first eight planets, but then was knocked out of a normal planetary orbit by collision with another object (like its moon).

        In science, the term entirely obvious is a very bad one -- it limits the drive to seek alternate explanations, which may end up being the correct ones.
        • by cbass2 (961466)

          The reason the planets are all in roughly the same plane and have nearly circular orbits is conservation of angular momentum of the protoplanetary disk. All planets, because of collions occuring roughly equally from all sides.

          Pluto, being further out in less dense space, probably experienced fewer collisions, so it could not achieve the same equalibrium as the rest of the planets. Hense whey it's orbit is the most oblong and not on the same plane.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protoplanetary_disk [wikipedia.org]

          I'm

    • by misleb (129952)
      Are you suggesting Pluto was adopted?

      -matthew
  • Replacement? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:07AM (#16409585) Homepage Journal
    In a move all to familiar to environmentalists in Canada [see Conservatives "green approach"], a national government has canceled a scientifically motivated project [Hubble] for which they have no replacement yet. When will governments realize that redundant-capable science projects [Internet] work better than canceling a project and leaving us blind for a measure of years?

    I suppose worldly wastes just get a higher priority than figuring out how the Universe is put together, and thus learning to better manage and predict it...
  • Hubble has taught us much because it's a big eye in the sky. Maybe if we put a big ear in the sky, we'd prove the wisdom of the old Music of the Spheres [wikipedia.org]. We've already got the studio album [tesco.net]... when will NASA release the live concert?
    • So we've done eyes, and we're talking about ears. Why have we not yet examined the possibilities of sticking a big tongue out into the sky? [princeton.edu]
      • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot.ideasmatter@org> on Thursday October 12, 2006 @11:29AM (#16409905) Journal
        Yes! And then a big nose! Will we really have to wait 1000 years for somebody to invent a Smelloscope?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ruie (30480)

          Yes! And then a big nose! Will we really have to wait 1000 years for somebody to invent a Smelloscope?

          Actually, this has been done in a number of ways. Nose is just an instrument to analyze chemical composition of substances. An incomplete list of existing techniques:

          • Original Mars landers had chemical tests on board (in particular to test for presence of life)
          • Comet dust gathering probes
          • Radiation-based chemical composition testing (Mossbauer spectrometer)
          • spectrometers: X-ray, radio (hydrogen line, amm
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Some would say the entire Earth is a cosmic raspberry.
  • If you aren't looking to print the story... http://www.physorg.com/news79617716.html [physorg.com]
  • by jaimz22 (932159)
    Isn't weight calculated by the amount of force exerted on a particular mass? how in the hell can something that is floating in a 0 gravity environment have weight? Unless thier talking about it's relative weight if it were here on earth.

    like saying "planet blahblah wieghs 700billion ton" NO IT DOESN'T it weighs nothing! there's no gravitational force acting upon it. If it was heavy it'd fall somewhere LMAO

    really.. come on.. and how do they weigh something by looking at it anyway? they don't KNOW what the de
    • by Tod DeBie (522956)

      Isn't weight calculated by the amount of force exerted on a particular mass?

      Yes. They are calculating mass, not weight.

      how do they weigh something by looking at it anyway

      If the planet was dead in space (not moving) we would not be able to estimate its mass very well: it might be made of lead or marshmellows and we would not be able to tell very well one way or the other from this far away without having more, um, powerful instruments [wikipedia.org]. However, when a planet is moving around a star, we can make a fairly g

      • by jaimz22 (932159)
        I'd have to say that'd be a better way to measure it's magnetic field, if one does infact exsist. let me point out, just because we have something on earth and on surrounding planets doesn't mean it's on ALL planets..
        • by Tod DeBie (522956)
          that'd be a better way to measure it's magnetic field
          We can't indirectly measure the magnetic fields of the other planets in our own solarsystem, we actually have to send out robots to measure them directly. I don't think we have any chance of measuring the magnetic fields (or lack thereof) of extrasolar planets, they are too weak and far away.
  • by kernel_pat (964314)
    Planets are made by god, your theory is ludicrous, I'm sueing you for not acknowledging my alternative theory.
    • You spelt God without proper capitalization. That is an even greater sin than drawing a cartoon of His Prophet (peas be upon him). Brace yourself buddy, anytime now millions of people will march in the streets of Karachi, Pakistan protesting this grave insult.
  • by HotBBQ (714130)
    [insert William Shatner voice]

    Must-resist-urge-to-make-lame-"Brown Dwarf"-comment.

    [/insert William Shatner voice]

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