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Astronomers discover first Goldilocks zone exoplanet

Posted on Thursday, September 30 2010 @ 18:15:06 CEST by

Researchers have discovered the first exoplanet that is located in its star's Goldilocks zone. The planet is named Gliese 581g, it lies about 20 light-years away and could potentially have an atmosphere and liquid water. Gliese 581g is thought to be a rocky planet and it's the most Earth-like planet yet identified. It's not exactly the same as home though as the planet has a mass about three to four times that of Earth, orbits its star in 37 days and has one side always facing its sun and the other side constantly in the dark.
The planet's average surface temperature is estimated to be between -12C and -31C.

But unlike Earth, this alien world has one side always facing its sun and the other side constantly in the dark. So in-between the two sides, between shadow and light, there could be an area where life could potentially thrive.

"Any emerging life forms would have a wide range of stable climates to choose from and to evolve around, depending on their longitude," said Dr Vogt.
UCSC astronomer Steven Vogt speculates potentially habitable planets like Gliese 581g could be very common, he believes there could be tens of billions in the Milky Way:
Dr Vogt agreed: "The number of systems with potentially habitable planets is probably on the order of 10 or 20%, and when you multiply that by the hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, that's a large number," he said.

"There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy."
Interestingly, Vogt also said during a press briefing that the chances of discovering life on this planet are 100 percent:
"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," he said during a press briefing. "I have almost no doubt about it."



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