Exoplanet that could harbour life


I get very excited when I discover news about new fantastic solar systems.  I bet the astronomers too, and I really regret that I don’t have enough time to read about these things(I know “I don’t have time” is the perfect excuse, but I’m being honest: there’s not enough time to study everything around you!”).

The solar system I”m talking here is located at about 20 light years away from Earth in the constellation Libra. The star is a red dwarf, and its name is “Gliese 581” (this works if you try to find it in Celestia, but in Stelarium it will appear as “HIP 74995″). This star has almost a third of the mass of the sun, and astronomers have found at least 6 planets orbiting it.

One of these planets is believed to be orbiting in the so-called “Goldilocks zone“(an area not too far but not too near the star, an area that is hospitable for planets that can harbour life).

The planet is named Gliese 581g(exoplanets usually don’t have names, just the star’s name and a small letter meaning the position in the respective solar system). Besides being located in the Goldilocks zone, the planet characteristics also favors the existence of liquid water and thus, life.

There is one negative aspect though. Astronomers say the planet is tidally locked, meaning that one side of the planet is always facing the star. But there’s hope in the area between the bright and the dark side. That would be the actual habitable area.

Even though a lot of astronomers seem so optimistic(and I believe most of them are skeptical actually, but they do this to show-off…), given the atmospheric conditions on that planet I find it hard to believe there are actually any living organisms at all. It’s a complex subject to discuss, but imagine how thing work here on Earth. Everything is connected. Imagine, for example, the circulation of water in the atmosphere. How would that be on that planet? I think a part of it would be immediately evaporated on the sunny side, and lots of would be made ice on the dark side, leaving the “hospitable zone” without water in no-time.

Of course, this is just the beginning, and already having a planet in the Goldilocks zone discovered, I remain optimistic for the future of exploration. I bet thousands of planets wait for us to discover them!

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