Any consistent readers know that I’m a self-proclaimed nerd, but some news running through the scientific community over the last week really got me excited. (Be warned, it’s about to get REAL scientific in this b*tch). Apparently for the first time in human history, we have identified a planet 20 light years away that could be capable of supporting life, complex/intelligent life, and possibly even human life. The name of the planet (for now) is Gliese 581 D. Check the article below.
An Earth-like planet spotted outside our solar system is the first found that could support liquid water and harbor life, scientists announced recently. Liquid water is a key ingredient for life as we know it. The newfound planet is located at the “Goldilocks” distance-not too close and not too far from its star to keep water on its surface from freezing or vaporizing away. And while astronomers are not yet able to look for signs of biology on the planet, the discovery is a milestone in planet detection and the search for extraterrestrial life, one with the potential to profoundly change our outlook on the universe.
Imagine life from the surface of this planet – its sun, being one third the size of our Sun and 50 times fainter – would be a dull, red glow in the sky. Under a deep, possibly planet-encompassing ocean, thick layers of ice surround the planet’s rocky centre. It’s the “first serious waterworld candidate”, according to astronomer and exoplanet hunter Stephane Udry, from the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, who was part of the team that discovered the planet in April 2007.
The habitability of this distant, possible waterworld depends on the composition and presence of an atmosphere. A Venus-like atmosphere, with a runaway greenhouse effect, could boil water away, whereas a thin, Mars-style atmosphere would see ice sublimate into vapor.
Gliese 581d orbits its sun every 66.8 days at about one fifth of the distance from the Earth to the Sun (0.22 astronomical units, or AU), closer than initial estimates and firmly within the star’s habitable zone according to a study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics in April 2009.