Scientists say new-found planet Gliese 581g may sustain life

by admin on September 30, 2010

Some people may be looking at the phrase "I want to believe" in a whole new light today.

Astronomers have reported the sighting of a new planet about 20 light-years away nestled in the constellation known as Libra.

The planet, which is being referred to as Gliese 581g, is three to four times the size of the earth and appears to be able to contain water, which suggests plant and animal life could survive on the planet's surface.

Dr. Steven S. Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, called the discovery a "long haul" in a press conference, the New York Times reported. He also added that this was the "first exoplanet that has the right conditions for water to exist on its surface." Vogt, along with R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, led the team that discovered the planet.

When Vogt was pressed during the conference about the possibility of life on the planet, he responded "the chances of life on this planet are almost 100 percent."

Gliese (which is pronounced glee-za) is located in what some astronomers have referred to in the past as the habitable zone. However, there are some stark differences to Gliese when compared to earth.

For starters, Gliese does not rotate as much as earth, which causes one side to be blanketed in light, while the other is almost entirely in darkness, the Associated Press reports.

Vogt also gave some indication as to the possible temperature of the planet and said it could get as hot as 160 degrees or as cold as 25 degrees below zero.

Seth Redfield, an exoplanet astronomer from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, told USA Today that the discovery was a "major milestone."

"Hopefully, this is a sign that in the coming years, we will find many more of these," Redfield told the news provider. "It has only been in the couple decades that we have been able to detect planets around other stars, and we (astronomers) are feverishly trying to place our planet into some sort of cosmic context."

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