New Planet Earth Found?
The astronomers said on Wednesday that they have discovered a distant planet which has the capacity of harboring water on its surface. Thanks to this capacity, the astronomers are very confident that there is life on the planet, which has been named Gliese 581g.
Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, stated “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent.” However, you should not get your hopes too high, as the planet is located in the Libra constellation, and because of the distance no human will be able to go there anytime soon. The star is located 20-light years away. Other astronomers are expected to inspect the planet, and if their findings are right, then this is the most Earthlike planet which has been discovered so far. Gliese 581g has three to four times the mass of Earth, and it meets all the requirements which would make life possible.
Steven S. Vogt who along with R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, led the team that made the discovery, stated that this is the first time when an exoplanets which has this potential has been found. The astronomers declared that the main goal of the National Academy of Science this decade is to find planets where life could exist. NASA launched the satellite called Kepler in March 2009. Its main purpose is to scan the space in order to find planets which are able to sustain life, just as our planet can. It is expected that the satellite will find hundreds or even thousands of such planets.
Gliese 581g circles a red star which is called Gliese 581, once every 37 days. The distance between the two space bodies is of 14 million miles. That is right in the Goldilocks zone, which is the distance at which the planet is not too cold or not too hot for water to exist on its surface. Dr. Butler said that this is the first time when a Goldilocks planet has been found. Many scientists have received the news with excitement, but in the same time, they were cautious about it. They said that many things are uncertain, and that means that they should not be too optimistic about it. They said that the composition, density, and atmosphere of the planet need to be analyzed more thoroughly, and that in order to be able to do so, they need to use much more advanced telescopes.
There have been other Goldilocks planets which have been discovered and then lost, but this is the first case when they managed to keep track of it continuously. The finding was revealed Wednesday at a news conference held in Washington. The planet was discovered in 11 years, and the scientists were surprised by the fact that they managed to find it so fast. They considered these planets to be very rare, but because they found it in 11 years, they are convinced that they are more common than it was initially believed. The two said that they must have been lucky to find the planet so fast. Many people asked him at the news conference, about the possibility of life existing on Gliese 581g, but Dr. Vogt answered that they have no idea about it, because they are astronomers and not biologists.
However, he then made the statement previously presented. Dr. Butler was not so optimistic, or convinced that life exists on the planet. However, he said that giving the fact that the planet is located in the right position, which gives it the possibility of holding water, there are some chances for life to exist there. However, he said that further investigation needs to be made in the domain. Gliese 581 has been long courted, so to speak, by the astronomers. It has been discovered that there are six planets which are located in its proximity. Dr. Butler said that the planet reminds him of our own solar system, because it is very similar to our sun, as it offers light and heat. Gliese 581c, circles just on the inner edge of the habitable zone, and because of it, it was believed that it could contain life. It too, was considered to be a Goldilocks planet, but it was later discovered that life could not exist there because of the greenhouse effect. Then they discovered another planet which was considered to be hospitable, but further researches revealed the fact that it was too cold for life to exist on it.
Gliese 581g seems to be perfect, as it is not too close and not too far away from Gliese 581. They have estimated that the regular temperatures on Gliese 581g are between 10 and -24 degrees Celsius. That is not too extreme, because the temperatures on Antarctica are similar to those. However, he revealed the fact that the temperatures are not important, because unlike the earth, Gliese 581g does not move around its axis. That means that one part of the planet is constantly receiving heat and light whereas the other one isn’t. The temperatures between the two parts could vary a lot. Because of that, an organism could grow only in a certain part of the planet.
Sara Seager, a planetary astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated that the situation on Gliese 581g is unknown, as it is uncertain if the planet can hold water, or if the temperatures are suitable for sustaining life. She said that the planet has 80 or 90 percent of holding water, but even so, the news isn’t too great. She says that no one will be sent there in the near future, because the risks are too high. She believes that even if we find other hospitable planets, that doesn’t mean too much because we can not reach them.11