New Planet Discovery Resembles Earth Size, Texture
Will astronomers some day find an unspoiled planet where we can all move when this dying rock is kaput?
It seems scientists are getting closer, having discovered a planet very close to earth's size -- and it's only 20 light years away.
The discovery was recently announced at a conference at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK, with more details submitted in a paper to the journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The planet in question lies way, way off in the distance, orbiting around a dim red star called Gliese 581 in the Libra constellation.
The new planet, now dubbed Gliese 581e by the Geneva Observatory scientists who this week discovered it, is only about 1.9 times the size of earth. However, this hasn't yet been fully confirmed.
Gliese 581e Bathed in Radiation
The red star around which Gliese 581e rotates was already known to have three other, much, much larger planets. However, only this new one is even close to the same size as earth, and has a rocky appearance -- also like earth. (Source: reuters.com)
Unfortunately, we shouldn't be expecting to see humans on Gliese 581e -- not today, and likely not ever. That is, unless someone invents an immunization shot for massive amounts of devastating radiation -- because Gliese 581e rotates only three million miles from its star Gliese 581, it's virtually ensconced in nuclear fallout, making it very unlivable.
"This is the most exciting discovery... so far."
Still, astronomers see the new finding as a step in the right direction. "Finding Earth-like planets with lukewarm temperatures is the next great goal," said the University of California's Geoff Marcy. "This is the most exciting discovery in exoplanets so far." (Source: nytimes.com)
Astronomers promise that with the right tools, including NASA's recently unveiled Kepler satellite, finding planets that resemble earth in size, texture, and atmosphere is possible. There may even be more hope for this particular system. MIT planet theorist Sara Seager recently called Gliese "the gift that keeps on giving."