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Tuesday, April 24th 2007

Earth Like Planet Discovered?

Gliese 581 Front & Center

European astronomers have published the discovery of the smallest extrasolar planet yet. What’s making popular news however, is the fact that,

They say the benign temperatures on the planet mean any water there could exist in liquid form, and this raises the chances it could also harbour life.

“We have estimated that the mean temperature of this ‘super-Earth’ lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid,” explained Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, lead author of the scientific paper reporting the result.

The Gliese 581 super-Earth is in what scientists call the “Goldilocks Zone” where temperatures “are just right” for life to have a chance to exist.

The planet, which isn’t alone in orbiting Gliese 581, circles the star in just 13 days (watch a potential orbit around Gliese 581) but because its parent star is a red dwarf, and much colder than the Sun, the temperatures on it are likely to be within a nominal range for water to exist. Couple that with its ‘earth-like’ size, which increases the likelihood that it is rocky (most exoplanets are huge, and probably represent gas giants like Jupiter), and you have the general media paying attention.

Gliese 581 would be within this frame at Wikisky. Of course it isn’t visible with the naked eye with a magnitude of ~2.5.

Pretty cool.