Thursday, September 30, 2010
Planet Gliese 581g: There Goes The Neighborhood
Astronomers say they have found an Earth-like planet Gliese 581g which could support the conditions needed for life.
Gliese 581 g (pronounced /ˈɡliːzə/) or Gl 581 g, is an extrasolar planet, orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581, approximately 20.5 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Libra. It is the sixth planet discovered in the Gliese 581 planetary system and the fourth in order from the star. The planet was discovered by the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey after more than a decade of observation. Despite the Gliese 581 system having a "somewhat checkered history of habitable planet claims," results from the study imply that the planet is located in the middle of the "Goldilocks", or habitable zone of its parent star, where the existence of liquid water is considered a strong possibility.
The discovery of Gliese 581 g was announced in late September 2010, and it is believed to be the first Goldilocks planet ever found, the most Earth-like planet, and the best exoplanet candidate with the potential for harboring life found to date. The detection of Gliese 581 g in such a short period of time and at such a close proximity, leads astronomers to believe that the frequency of habitable planets around other stars may be much higher than was once thought.