Planets Found in Potentially Habitable Setup, SPACE.com, Ker Than, 17 May 2006 ...
[Graphic: "HD 69830/HR 3259," Sol Company.]
Three medium-sized planets of roughly the same mass as Neptune have been discovered around a nearby Sun-like star, scientists announced today. [See also ABC/Discovery, National Geographic, New Scientist, USA Today, etc.] The planets were discovered around HD 69830, a star slightly less massive than the Sun located 41 light-years away in the constellation Puppis (the Stern), using the ultra-precise HARPS spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6-meter La Silla telescope in Chile. The finding, detailed in the May 18 issue of the journal Nature, marks a first for astronomers because previously discovered multi-planet solar systems besides our own contain at least one giant, Jupiter-sized planet. "For the first time, we have discovered a planetary system composed of several Neptune-mass planets," said study team member Christophe Lovis of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland. The setup is similar to our own solar system in many ways: The outermost planets is located just within the star's habitable zone, where temperatures are moderate enough for liquid water to form, and the system also contains an asteroid belt. The newly discovered planets have masses of about 10, 12 and 18 times that of Earth and they zip around the star in rapid orbits of about 9, 32 and 197 days, respectively ... [It is absurd (if not dishonest) to claim that a "planetary system composed of several Neptune-mass planets" which have "masses of about 10, 12 and 18 times that of Earth" and "zip around the star in rapid orbits of about 9, 32 and 197 days, respectively" is "similar to our own solar system" and is a "Potentially habitable set-up"!]
... In the early years of planet hunting, the wobble technique was sensitive enough to spot only large, massive planets because they produce more significant stellar wobbles. However, the technique has since been refined to the point where lower-mass planets can now be detected. [Well, astronomers have not yet found any truly Earth-size exoplanets, as yet. That could be because either: 1) they are there but not yet detected; 2) they are rare; or 3) they don't exist.]
I have scanned and placed on my website an amazing chapter out of a slim book I bought at a remainder stall, Professor Stuart Ross Taylor, "The Solar System: An Environment For Life?," in Walter, M., ed., et al., "To Mars and Beyond: Search for the Origins of Life," Art Exhibitions Australia: Sydney & National Museum of Australia: Canberra, Australia, 2001, pp.57-67. It reads like something out of The Privileged Planet, not by an Emeritus Professor of Planetary Science at the Australian National University! I intend to quote from that chapter as appropriate. However, I will quote Prof. Taylor's conclusion first, as it is appropriate to this post:
"These new discoveries reinforce the message from our own system. Nothing resembling our Solar System has been discovered. The conditions that existed to make our set of planets are not easily reproduced elsewhere. Indeed, no two planets in the Solar System are alike. Likewise, the 80-odd moons are also odd characters that defy efforts to put them into pigeonholes. So it should have come as no surprise that when nature tried elsewhere to build planets the end result was different. We are left with the conclusion that attempts to find some general formulae for recreating the detail of the Solar System are likely to be on the wrong track. Local accidents have predominated over general theories, just as some overlooked detail of the landscape may ruin the course of a battle that was planned according to the best principles of military strategy." (Taylor, S.R., "The Solar System: An Environment For Life?," in Walter, M., ed., et al., "To Mars and Beyond: Search for the Origins of Life," Art Exhibitions Australia: Sydney & National Museum of Australia: Canberra, Australia, 2001, p.67)
As will be seen by reading the online chapter, or when I post further quotes from it, it is increasingly likely that our Solar System, the Earth and life on it, are unique in the entire Universe!
Prof. Taylor seems to agree with that (or at least the unlikeihood of disproving it), because he said in 1999:
"When the remote chances of developing a habitable planet are added to the chances of developing both high intelligence and a technically advanced civilization, the odds of finding 'little green men' elsewhere in the universe decline to zero." (Taylor, S.R., in "Other stars, other worlds, other Life?," Holoscience, Views, 15 December 1999)
and discoveries since then have given him no reason to change his mind.]