1 October 2010

I left my heart in Gliese 581g

Okay, so maybe it won't make into a pop song anytime soon, but it's exciting to see that we might be locating habitable planets in my lifetime. I'm surprised to hear scientists saying that they know for certain that it's habitable. I'm having a hard time imagining what life would be like on a tidally locked planet--would you have two intelligent races-one adapted to cold and the other eternally dancing on sunlit beaches?

Habitable planet found 20 light-years away!
Astronomers have located an Earth-like planet that they believe can support life. The newly discovered exoplanet Gliese 581g, called Planet G, exists in the Gliese 581 system and is thought to be the right size and location for life. Part of a six-member family of planets, this exoplanet is situated in the middle of the system's so-called "Goldilocks zone."  Scientists believe the temperatures at this position would be ideal for sustaining liquid water on at least part of the planet's surface. While similar to Earth, Planet G has very distinct differences. This world is tidally locked to its red dwarf sun and thus lacks days and nights. In other words, half of the planet is perpetually drenched in sunlight while the other side is draped in darkness. "Any emerging life forms would have a wide range of stable climates to choose from and to evolve around, depending on their longitude," said Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz. Although it has not yet been determined whether water exists on the planet, one prominent scientists says that he's 100% confident that Planet G can support life. "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. I have almost no doubt about it," Vogt said.

6 comments:

CyberKitten said...

My first thought was: turn your radio telescopes towards that sucker now!

I mean, it's *only* 20 light-years ago. So we can send messages and (hopefully) get answers back in a single lifetime! That rocks so seriously.....

Jazzbumpa said...

I'd say that prominent scientist has a severe case of hyper-optimistic wish fulfillment fantasy, bordering on magical thinking. The only life we know anything about is here on earth so his "flourish wherever it can" statement is based on a rather limited data set.

This planet will have on one side perpetual blistering heat with no chance of any relief, ever. On the other side, there isn't much reason for the temp to be high enough to melt dry ice, or even methane.

The temperate zone, if one might even call it that, would be a thin band of twilight, continuously buffeted by violent storms where the cold and hot zones collide, in a vane attempt to reach a thermal equilibrium.

So, sorry for being the glass 100% empty guy, but I'm not holding out any hope at all.

Lo siento,
JzB

Vancouver Voyeur said...

Does this also mean that at the edges of where it goes from sunlight to darkness, that a small wedge of the planet is perpetually trapped between dawn and dusk? It sounds like a lovely spot to me.

Karlo said...

I keep trying to imagine living in a place with an eternal sunset. I wonder how the people would keep track of time--especially if there are no moons around. Would they have months corresponding to shifts in the constellations?

libhom said...

I don't have any idea if there actually is any kind of life there, but it seems like it would have to be on the edge of the day/night boundary.

Karlo said...

I wonder if anyone really knows what the weather patterns on such a planet would look like.