Alpha Centauri star system

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I have been reading about the star system on wiki and noticed that one of the Alpha Centauri stars could in theory have a terrestrial planet in the goldilocks region. I also came to know that its orbit would only be stable for 250 million years. Given that these stars have been around for a few billions of years, do you think that we will be able to find a planet if and when we develop technology that can detect terrestrial planets? Are we late? 250 million years sounds like an awfully small amount of time for complex life to evolve, but is it possible for the planet to have a stable atmosphere that can support life?

I also read that the government has stopped the funding for developing technology needed for the detection of terrestrial planets. Is anyone else trying to develop this technology or is that the end of it? :(

I hope one day we get to see it closely and unravel its mysteries. As James Kirk in Star Trek said "Alpha Centauri is a beautiful place, you ought to see it".
 

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  • #2
Nabeshin
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I also read that the government has stopped the funding for developing technology needed for the detection of terrestrial planets. Is anyone else trying to develop this technology or is that the end of it? :(
??? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kepler_Mission

Exoplanet research is currently one of the hottest areas in astronomy, so where did you get an idea like that?
 
  • #3
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I have been reading about the star system on wiki and noticed that one of the Alpha Centauri stars could in theory have a terrestrial planet in the goldilocks region. I also came to know that its orbit would only be stable for 250 million years.
Where did you find that out? Was that figure a lower limit or an upper limit?

I would not be surprised if it's a lower limit, since it will take a LOT of CPU cycles to calculate.

Since ODE solvers depend on approximations, the stepsize must be much smaller than the planet's year. If it's 100 steps/year, then 250 million years is 25 billion steps. Furthermore, it'll be necessary to rerun the calculations with different initial conditions, to simulate different planets.

I also read that the government has stopped the funding for developing technology needed for the detection of terrestrial planets. Is anyone else trying to develop this technology or is that the end of it? :(
That's the Terrestrial Planet Finder.
 
  • #4
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Where did you find that out? Was that figure a lower limit or an upper limit?
Neither. It's nonsense. It's on Wikipedia, but the number is nowhere to be found in the reference they cite. Unfortunately, once sloppy scholarship appears on Wikipedia, it spreads.
 
  • #5
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First, one of the authors of Alpha Centauri - Wikipedia stated:
However, computer simulations show that a planet might have been able to form within a distance of 1.1 AU (160 million km) of Alpha Centauri B and the orbit of that planet may remain stable for at least 250 million years.
Note the "at least". It's not "at most".

I found the source: [0811.0673] Planet formation in the habitable zone of alpha Centauri B
Not exactly very relevant.

I looked through arxiv.org and I found one more-or-less-relevant paper:
[astro-ph/9609106] The Stability of Planets in the Alpha Centauri system from 1996.
It features integrations for only 2.5 million years.

As to Wikipedia's quality control, it's possible to sign up at Wikipedia's site and edit it.
 

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