Scientists and society alike have often dreamed of finding another habitable planet in the universe. Being the other planets in our solar system have, for the most part, been determined not to be habitable, astronomers have been exploring further out into space in an attempt to learn what or who else is residing in the universe.
As a result of explorations, a team of astronomers have discovered Gliese 581g. Gliese 581 g is a planet located in the constellation Libra the Scales and orbits the star Gliese 581. This star is located 20 light years away from Earth. Gliese 581g was discovered by the team through use of the HIRES spectrometer on the W.M. Keck Observatory’s Keck I Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Gliese 581g has been observed carefully, and scientists, through determining the orbit of the planet, have deduced this planet’s surface temperatures are similar to Earth’s (sify.com). There are other planets which orbit Gliese 581 and the planets had earlier been deemed to be either too hot or cold to have sustainable living conditions; Gliese 581g appears to be located in an area in between that is believed to be a habitable zone.
What this means is due to the planet’s location, there is a strong possibility water exists in liquid form, and not in ice or vapor form which has typical for planets discovered thus far. What this also means is due to this factor, the new planet may perhaps even be livable.
Keckobservatory.org reports “The new planet, known as Gliese 581g, is at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the star’s “habitable zone” where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. If confirmed, this would be the most Earth-like exoplanet and the first bona fide potentially habitable one yet discovered.”
Paul Butler, one of the team’s leaders stated “This is our first Goldilocks planet – just the right size and the right distance from its sun. A threshold has been crossed.” (Washington Post) These discoveries are not stating that life exists for sure on Gliese 581g, however scientists do believe the conditions to be favorable.
The team of scientists, comprised of astronomers from various universities and institutions, deem Gliese 581g to be larger than Earth, approximately 3 to 4 times the size in mass; its orbital period is slightly less than 37 days. They also believe Gliese 581g’s surface is rocky and “has enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere” (Keckobservatory.org).
The research will be explained in detail about this discovery in a paper to be published in the Astrophysical Journal and available for viewing online at arXiv.org,. Gliese 581g is not alone, there are at least five others, maybe six, other known planets circling the red dwarf star.
This group has been observing from the W.M. Keck Observatory for 11 years. The team is hopeful many more planets with potential Earth-like conditions are within discovery.
Imagine how amazing receiving affirmative confirmation of life on other planets would be. Over the centuries many have been intrigued by this possibility and it seems that science and technology may finally be finding some answers.