And This One is Just Right…

September 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Big news came out of the science world yesterday when it was announced that a planet that’s the right size and location to sustain life has been found orbiting a star a mere 20 light years away from us.  I know light years seem pretty far but in the context of the enormousness that is space, it’s actually rather close.

Could be cousins with our Mother Earth!

Here are some of the general facts:

  • Diameter – 1.2 to 1.4 times that of the Earth
  • Mass –  3.1 and 4.3 times that of the Earth
  • Average surface temperature – between -24F and 10F (-31C and -12C)
  • Distance from the Earth – 20 light years or 118,000,000,000,000 miles
  • Time needed to travel to Gliese 581g in a rocket travelling one tenth the speed of light, or 19,000 miles per second – 200 years
  • One of six planets to orbit the star Gliese 581
  • Length of year – 37 Earth days
  • Gravity – similar or slightly higher than Earth
  • Distance from its sun – around six million miles
  • The planet orbits a red dwarf which is 50 times cooler and a third the size of our Sun
  • Composition – rocky with liquid water and atmosphere.
  • Source

    Where's Mulder when you need him?

    This planet has been dubbed a “Goldilocks” planet, as it’s not too hot or cold for human habitation and the gravity is roughly that of Earth’s.  Scientists think that this could lead us to discover an entire universe of Earth-like planets, which of course humans will eventually try to colonize and destroy.  That’s a while in the future though because even though 20 light years isn’t too far in space-speak, it would take someone a few lifetimes to get there using the technology we currently have.  It’s fun to think about what could be living there in the meantime though!

    Professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, Steven Vogt, said, “If these are rare, we shouldn’t have found one so quickly and so nearby.” He went on to talk about life inhabiting that planet and mentioned that “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it.”

    Obviously this is kind of a big deal, and not just for sci-fi nerds who are certain that The Truth is Out There.  Personally, I think that the odds of intelligent life not existing outside of our planet are slim to zero.  Space is just too big and we don’t even fully understand what’s going on in the depths of our oceans, let alone the far reaches of the cosmos.  Who knows what’s out there?  And what do you think?

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