A Potentially Habitable Planet?
A team of astronomers led by Steven Vogt of the University of California, and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington have found a rocky earth-sized planet that might be habitable (Haghighipour, Nader 2010). The new exoplanet called Gliese 581g orbits the red dwarf star Gliese 581 in the constellation Libra and it is the sixth planet that the astronomers have found around its star. Gliese 581g is about 20 light years away, which is roughly 117.5 trillion miles, rather close. The sun is around eight and a half light minutes from Earth (Stephens, Tim 2010). Scientists have found a lot of information about this planet and they have few reasons to believe that this planet can sustain life. Liquid water is one of the necessities for a planet to sustain life. Scientists believe that Gliese 581g has the perfect temperature and mass to have liquid water. Scientists found two planets around Gliese 581, one on the hot side and one on the cold side, but Gliese 581g is located between these two planets and its temperature is mild enough for liquid water. The distance between Gliese 581g and its star makes this planet lies right in the middle of the habitable zone in which liquid water could exist. Gliese 581g is three to four times more massive than Earth and it has enough gravity to retain an atmosphere and keep liquid water from evaporating into space (Berardelli, Phil 2010). Atmosphere is also a necessity for life to take hold. The scientists are still trying to characterize the atmosphere of Gliese 581g but the tools that the astronomers are using right now are not efficient enough to determine what is in Gliese 581g air. It will take few years until more modern and efficient tools come along to can help them see what Gliese 581g atmosphere is made of. Researchers have discovered some interesting information regarding Gliese 581g. These discoveries are based on 11 years of observations at the W. M. Keck Observatory in...
References: Berardelli, Phil. (2010). Astronomers Find Most Earth-like Planet to Date. Retrieved on October 8, 2010. http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/09/astronomers-find-most-earth-like.html
Haghighipour, Nader. (2010). Newly discovered planet may have water on its surface. Retrieved on October 8, 2010. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-09/uoha-ndp093010.php
Stephens, Tim. (2010). Discovery suggests our galaxy may be teeming with potentially habitable planets. Retrieved on October 8, 2010. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-09/uoc--ndp092810.php
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