Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another Earth Spotted?

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(Image Credit: ESO, via Space.com)

Note: Nothing to do with our own solar system, but it is interesting nonetheless.

It looks like scientists may have spotted the first planet outside of our solar system that is potentially habitable for life.

(Space.com) An Earth-like planet spotted outside our solar system is the first found that could support liquid water and harbor life, scientists announced today.

Liquid water is a key ingredient for life as we know it. The new found 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. [...]

The new planet is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive. The new "super-Earth" is called Gliese 581 C, after its star, Gliese 581, a diminutive red dwarf star located 20.5 light-years away that is about one-third as massive as the Sun.

This is the first terrestrial world discovered outside of our solar system that orbits within the habitable zone of a star. Although the planet orbits a short distance around its star (about 13 Earth days), life forms could easily survive on this world due to the dimness (or rather lack of heat) from the red dwarf sun.

Scientists are probably going to take a second look at this, and it will be interesting to see whether or not we will be able to locate features upon this world in the future.

Note: I've just alerted Paul over at Centauri Dreams, who should have an interesting analysis regarding this discovery.

Update (4/25): Paul has posted his analysis here with a video over here. Exciting stuff!

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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