Sep 29 - Earth-Like Planet Discovered A Mere 20 Light Years Away

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 7 years ago '09        #1
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Ricky Towel 128 heat pts128
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Sep 29 - Earth-Like Planet Discovered A Mere 20 Light Years Away
 

 

Astronomers have discovered a potentially habitable planet of similar size to Earth in orbit around a nearby star.

A team of planet hunters spotted the alien world circling a red dwarf star called Gliese 581, 20 light years away.

The planet is in the "Goldilocks zone" of space around a star where surface temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to form.

"Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet," said Steven Vogt, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "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."

If confirmed, the planet would be the most Earth-like that has ever been discovered in another solar system and the first strong contender for a habitable one.

More than 400 exoplanets have been discovered by astronomers, but most are gas giants, like Jupiter, that would be inhospitable to life as we know it.

Astronomers used the Keck telescope in Hawaii to study the movement of Gliese 581 in exquisite detail and from their observations inferred the presence of a number of orbiting planets. The team report two new planets in the Astrophysical Journal, bringing the total number known to be circling the star to six.

One of the planets, named Gliese 581g, has a mass of three to four times that of Earth and takes 37 days to orbit the star. Astronomers believe it is a rocky planet with enough gravity to retain an atmosphere.

Unlike the previously discovered planets, Gliese 581g lies squarely in the region of space were life can thrive. "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," Vogt said.

One side of the planet is always facing the star, much as one side of the moon constantly faces Earth. This means that the far side of the planet is constantly in darkness. The most habitable region of the planet would be the line between the light and dark regions.

"Any emerging life forms would have a wide range of stable climates to choose from and to evolve around, depending on their longitude," Vogt said.

The average temperature on the planet is estimated to be between -31 to -12C, but the ground temperature would vary from blazing hot on the bright side and freezing on the dark side.

"The number of systems with potentially habitable planets is probably on the order of 10 or 20 percent, and when you multiply that by the hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, that's a large number. There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy," said Vogt.

[pic - click to view]

 New Earth-like planet discovered | Science | The Guardian

118 comments for "Sep 29 - Earth-Like Planet Discovered A Mere 20 Light Years Away"

 7 years ago '05        #2
DaViLLe726 3 heat pts
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WASHINGTON – Astronomers say they have for the first time spotted a planet beyond our own in what is sometimes called the Goldilocks zone for life: Not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right.

Not too far from its star, not too close. So it could contain liquid water. The planet itself is neither too big nor too small for the proper surface, gravity and atmosphere.

It's just right. Just like Earth.

"This really is the first Goldilocks planet," said co-discoverer R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

The new planet sits smack in the middle of what astronomers refer to as the habitable zone, unlike any of the nearly 500 other planets astronomers have found outside our solar system. And it is in our galactic neighborhood, suggesting that plenty of Earth-like planets circle other stars.

Finding a planet that could potentially support life is a major step toward answering the timeless question: Are we alone?

Scientists have jumped the gun before on proclaiming that planets outside our solar system were habitable only to have them turn out to be not quite so conducive to life. But this one is so clearly in the right zone that five outside astronomers told The a.ssociated Press it seems to be the real thing.

"This is the first one I'm truly excited about," said Penn State University's Jim Kasting. He said this planet is a "pretty prime candidate" for harboring life.

Life on other planets doesn't mean E.T. Even a simple single-cell bacteria or the equivalent of shower mold would shake perceptions about the uniqueness of life on Earth.

But there are still many unanswered questions about this strange planet. It is about three times the mass of Earth, slightly larger in width and much closer to its star — 14 million miles away versus 93 million. It's so close to its version of the sun that it orbits every 37 days. And it doesn't rotate much, so one side is almost always bright, the other dark.

Temperatures can be as hot as 160 degrees or as frigid as 25 degrees below zero, but in between — in the land of constant sunrise — it would be "shirt-sleeve weather," said co-discoverer Steven Vogt of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

It's unknown whether water actually exists on the planet, and what kind of atmosphere it has. But because conditions are ideal for liquid water, and because there always seems to be life on Earth where there is water, Vogt believes "that chances for life on this planet are 100 percent."

The astronomers' findings are being published in Astrophysical Journal and were announced by the National Science Foundation on Wednesday.

The planet circles a star called Gliese 581. It's about 120 trillion miles away, so it would take several generations for a spaceship to get there. It may seem like a long distance, but in the scheme of the vast universe, this planet is "like right in our face, right next door to us," Vogt said in an interview.

That close proximity and the way it was found so early in astronomers' search for habitable planets hints to scientists that planets like Earth are probably not that rare.

Vogt and Butler ran some calculations, with giant fudge factors built in, and figured that as much as one out of five to 10 stars in the universe have planets that are Earth-sized and in the habitable zone.

With an estimated 200 billion stars in the universe, that means maybe 40 billion planets that have the potential for life, Vogt said. However, Ohio State University's Scott Gaudi cautioned that is too speculative about how common these planets are.

Vogt and Butler used ground-based telescopes to track the star's precise movements over 11 years and watch for wobbles that indicate planets are circling it. The newly discovered planet is actually the sixth found circling Gliese 581. Two looked promising for habitability for a while, another turned out to be too hot and the fifth is likely too cold. This sixth one bracketed right in the sweet spot in between, Vogt said.

With the star designated "a," its sixth planet is called Gliese 581g.

"It's not a very interesting name and it's a beautiful planet," Vogt said. Unofficially, he's named it after his wife: "I call it Zarmina's World."

The star Gliese 581 is a dwarf, about one-third the strength of our sun. Because of that, it can't be seen without a telescope from Earth, although it is in the Libra constellation, Vogt said.

But if you were standing on this new planet, you could easily see our sun, Butler said.

The low-energy dwarf star will live on for billions of years, much longer than our sun, he said. And that just increases the likelihood of life developing on the planet, the discoverers said.

"It's pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions," Vogt said.

___

Online:

The National Science Foundation:

NASA:



thought this was interesting
looks like well be living on goldilocks around 2025
 7 years ago '06        #3
Isiah61 8 heat pts
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Lets GO!!
 7 years ago '10        #4
Ngajuana 
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 Isiah61 said:
Lets GO!!
 7 years ago '08        #5
jmack26 54 heat pts54
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 Isiah61 said:
Lets GO!!
#letsgo....
 7 years ago '07        #6
Supercoolbert 122 heat pts122
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its scary to think we're not alone in this universe
 7 years ago '04        #7
doczdaname 28 heat pts28
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 bertini22 said:
its scary to think we're not alone in this universe
its not scary, I want to see what is out there. It's more fascinating than scary..
 09-29-2010, 06:58 PM         #8
bklynUSA 
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Let's go kick their a.ss and get their unobtanium.
 7 years ago '05        #9
bobbysteels18 663 heat pts663
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20 Light Years Away thats it not far at all lets go.
 09-29-2010, 07:03 PM         #10
Tempus # 1 
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I heard about this a long time ago
 7 years ago '05        #11
Nyse03 14 heat pts14
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in terms of miles how far/long is 20 light years...im ignorant on the subject but im guessin its about 20 liftimes away with our technology
 7 years ago '05        #12
Nyse03 14 heat pts14
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 NahLij said:
I'll gas up the El Camino....
SHOTGUN
 7 years ago '06        #13
knaps 
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 NahLij said:
I'll gas up the El Camino....
:rofl2:
 7 years ago '05        #14
Nyse03 14 heat pts14
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just read that a light-year is 6 trillion miles...not so ignorant now b**ches...we gonna need alotta gas for dat El-Camino though
 7 years ago '04        #15
deziking 79 heat pts79
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man I want to go to that planet asap yo, check that s**t out!
 09-29-2010, 07:16 PM         #16
Kakarot 
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 bertini22 said:
its scary to think we're not alone in this universe
word the chances of us being the only intelligent life in the universe seem slim to me
 7 years ago '05        #17
kaderg911 6 heat pts
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 NahLij said:
I'll gas up the El Camino....
ahha n*ggas got the yellow cake in his special cia napkin lool
 7 years ago '09        #18
Chalky 303 heat pts303
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Earth 2
 7 years ago '05        #19
Junior G 114 heat pts114
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wanna f**k an alien b**ch
 7 years ago '08        #20
foestacks 13 heat pts13
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 NahLij said:
I'll gas up the El Camino....
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