Last night, all the self-proclaimed Wise-Men of
/. derided NBC for broadcasting the Y2K movie, calling it meaningless hysteria and irresponsible broadcasting. Tonight, there is a snippet of news on a possible discovery of light being reflected off a gas giant near Tau Boote 50 light years away, and some of you same wise men (though not all, some of these posters know of what they speak) are talking about silicon based life-forms and asking why we haven't heard radio communications from this planet?!?! Geez, haven't these particular /.ers taken an elementary course in Astronomy? In any event, I expect the pace of these discoveries to increase. At first, we were able to detect a planet by the gravitational 'wobble' it produced on its star, then we were able to look at how the light from a star dimmed when a planet passed nearby it. According to one of my astro books, we've discovered 6 or 7 planets. Only a few are smaller than Jupiter while the rest are much larger. The interesting thing is, and the question to be answered is, how does such a planet like the one formed around Tau Boote survive the intitial formation of the star? Most astronomers think there is some sort of solar gale when the star is initially formed, and such a gaseous planet could not survive. In any case, it will be even more difficult to detect earth sized planets since they are much smaller and won't radiate near the electromagnetic energy of these gas giants. As for extra-terrestrial life- Well, hopefully Hubble 2, or whatever it will be called, could point its camera at these objects and take some nice snap-shots. If something proves interesting enough, it's not that difficult to move the VLA in New Mexico or some southern Radio 'scope to look at the object. The next century will be a very exciting time for all astronomers.