Thursday, 30 September 2010

A distant Earth-like exoplanet 'could have life'- Now how to get there...

A distant Earth-like exoplanet 'could have life'

Gliese 581 g An artist's impression of Gliese 581g and its parent star
Astronomers have detected an Earth-like exoplanet that may have just the right kind of conditions to support life.

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Any emerging life forms would have a wide range of stable climates to choose from and to evolve around, depending on their longitude”
End Quote Steven Vogt University of California, Santa Cruz
Gliese 581g lies some 20 light-years away in its star's "Goldilocks zone" - a region surface temperatures would allow the presence of liquid water.
Scientists say that the newly found world could also potentially have an atmosphere.
Their findings, made with the Keck telescope in Hawaii, appear in the Astrophysical Journal.
The researchers, from the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, have been studying the movement of the planet's parent star, a red dwarf called Gliese 581, for 11 years.
Their observations have revealed a number of exoplanets spinning around the star.
Possibility of life
Recently they discovered two new alien worlds, so together with the previous findings, this brings the number of planets orbiting Gliese 581 to six.
But the most important new revelation is that one of those worlds might be the most Earth-like planet yet identified.
"Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet," said Steven Vogt, an astronomer at UCSC.
"The fact that we were able to detect this planet so quickly and so nearby tells us that planets like this must be really common."
Gliese 581g has a mass about three to four times that of Earth. It orbits its sun in 37 days and is thought to be a rocky world. It has enough gravity to possibly have an atmosphere.
An artist's impression of Gliese 581c Another Earth-like planet, Gliese 581c, was discovered a few years ago
Gliese 581g is located in its star's "Goldilocks zone" - a zone in space where temperatures are neither too hot nor to cold for liquid water.
Such a zone defines the region in a star-centered orbit where an Earth-like planet could sustain that water on its surface - and therefore life.
"We had planets on both sides of the habitable zone - one too hot and one too cold - and now we have one in the middle that's just right," said Dr Vogt.
The planet's average surface temperature is estimated to be between -12C and -31C.
But unlike Earth, this alien world has one side always facing its sun and the other side constantly in the dark. So in-between the two sides, between shadow and light, there could be an area where life could potentially thrive.
"Any emerging life forms would have a wide range of stable climates to choose from and to evolve around, depending on their longitude," said Dr Vogt.
Alien worlds
The first exoplanet orbiting a star was detected more than a decade ago.
Since then, nearly 500 other worlds have been found beyond our Solar System, many of them Jupiter-like gas giants.
Now, astronomers are hoping to spot more exoplanets where life could be possible.
"We're at exactly that threshold now with finding habitable planets," said Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution, a co-author of the study.
Dr Vogt agreed: "The number of systems with potentially habitable planets is probably on the order of 10 or 20%, and when you multiply that by the hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, that's a large number," he said.
"There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy."

17 comments:

  1. Meh, how many "Earth-like" planets did they found already? All of them turned out to be fake or just a mistake.

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  2. god i hope we dont destroy like were slowly destroying ours

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  3. Those planets will be invaded if we ever have the tech to reach them.

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  4. yeah i'm not so sure about this stuff..... if there is a planet out there like this, i bet it isn't as f'd up as ours!!

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  5. Haha, SayWhatNow said it! Fully agree with you :D

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  6. There most likely are billions, crazy man.

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  7. i think they're putting to much thought into this, of course they're going to find a habitable planet eventually theres billions of stars out there, and thats just our galaxy- theres billions of galaxies

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  8. I heard about this and think it's truly amazing how this could be a possibility. I'm a little sad that we won't be going to migrate to other planets in my lifetime.

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  9. hey, this is one of my more favorite posts from you :)

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  10. Dude, i'm really interested in this stuff, it looks freaking crazy.. but 20 light years is unreachable =/ Wish there were closer planets with life

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  11. I'm looking forward to your next post!

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  12. Great post!

    looking forward to reading the next one

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  13. I'm pretty sure this is Pandora and we are going to destroy it for some unobtanium.

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  14. Please let there be hot blue chicks in loin cloths.

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  15. I think it's pretty probable that we'll find another Earth-like planet with life on it...I mean, there are billions of stars in our galaxy, and there are billions of galaxies that we can observe...

    The question becomes; what about *intelligent* species...?

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