gliese
by Ali Garfinkel
Categories: .
Photo: Flickr via NASAblueshift

“Is there life on other planets?”

We’ve all heard this asked hundreds of thousands of times — and while we’ve found things like water and bacteria on many a space-entity, it’s the question of whether human or human-like (or any, actually) living entities exist outside our known boundaries.

Pondering this also leads to another question — if there can be life on other planets, would those planets be able to sustain our life as well?

It seems to be possible.

In a galaxy far, far away — or just right outside ours — lies a planetary system surrounding red dwarf Gliese 581. In 2007, scientists discovered the existence of two planets orbiting around this area and explored the possibility of sustaining human life. The outer planet, 581d, proved to be too cold, but there was hope for the inner planet. After more analysis by atmospheric experts, they concluded that if the planet had liquid oceans they would quickly evaporate, giving it more the atmosphere similarity of Venus.

Three years later in 2010, around the same area, another planet was discovered, which they call “Zarmina’s World” (or Gliese 581g, which is super unoriginal.) Supposedly this planet carries a similar mass to that of our Earth — but scientists were doubtful because of extreme difficulty when trying to detect the planet, claiming it may not exist but be the result of ‘space noise’ due to stellar wobble — a method using ultra-fine measurements to detect exoplanets.

After much back and forth it was finally determined yesterday that it was Gliese 581d all along which is the potentially habitable exoplanet. It may be a rocky planet, but its mass is at least 7x that of Earth’s and twice its size. Also, its thick carbon dioxide atmosphere makes it stable against collapse, warm enough for bodies of water, clouds, even rain!

The exoplanet lies 20 light years from earth, which means it would take over 300,000 years to get there — but is definitely worth further study.

Wanna read more about our new neighbor? Check out the full, sciencey article here.

  • Anthony Kleanthous

    “…we’ve found things like water and bacteria on many a space-entity”…? Water, yes. Bacteria, definitely not. That would constitute having discovered alien life, and would have been about the biggest news story of the millenium. Some say we’ve found evidence of the past presence of bacteria in meteorites and rocks gathered from Mars, but this is far from the same thing, and is contested. Perhaps you’re referring to bacteria from Earth that have survived on spaceships, satellites and space stations, in which case you need to make that clear.