September 30th, 2010
01:12 PM ET

'100 percent' chance for life on newly found planet?

An artist rendering shows the four inner planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host star.

Gliese 581g may be the new Earth.

A team of astronomers from the University of California and the Carnegie Institute of Washington say they've found a planet like ours, 20 light years (120 trillion miles) from Earth, where the basic conditions for life are good.

"The chances for life on this planet are 100 percent," Steven Vogt, a UC professor of astronomy and astrophysics says. "I have almost no doubt about it."

The planet is three times the size of Earth, but the gravity is similar.

Dr. Elizabeth Cunningham, planetarium astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, says the discovery is a huge deal.

"It could have liquid water on the surface," she said. "That's the first step to find life."

The Gliese 581 system's orbit compared to our own solar system. The planet labeled G is the one scientists believe could very likely support life.

There are hundreds of known extrasolar planets that have been discovered in the Milky Way, but this is the first that could support life.

Earthlings won't be traveling to Gliese 581g any time soon unfortunately. Scientists say a spaceship traveling close to the speed of light would take 20 years to make this journey.

But if we did - we'd find some other things familiar. The atmosphere and gravity are similar to Earth, and if you're from the polar regions, you'd definitely feel right at home. Scientists say the highest average temperature is about -12 degrees Celcius (10 Fahrenheit), but they point out that the planet doesn't have a night and day - one side continually faces the star and the other side faces the darkness of space. This means one side is blazing hot and the other freezing cold.

Gliese orbits a red dwarf star called Gliese 581. Cunningham says "it's a Goldilocks planet."

"It's not too hot, it's not too cold, it's just right" for water to form, Cunningham said.

The area is called the "Goldilocks zone."

Other planets near Gliese 581g have been discovered, but they are not habitable and are mainly comprised of gas. Gliese 581g, however, is a rocky planet.

It was discovered using the Keck telescope in Hawaii which has been observing the star Gliese 581 for 11 years.

"Keck's long-term observations of the wobble of nearby stars enabled the detection of this multi-planetary system," said Mario R. Perez, Keck program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington.

Astronomers are excited this new planet was discovered so fast and relatively close by.

"I'm surprised we found one so fast," Cunningham said. "The implication is either we were very lucky or these planets could be relatively common."

Gliese 581g is in the constellation of Libra. While Earth takes 365 days to orbit our star, the sun, Gliese 581g orbits its star in 37 days.

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Filed under: Science • Space
soundoff (1,327 Responses)
  1. Shaun

    EARTH FIRST!! WE'LL STRIPMINE THE OTHER PLANETS LATER!!

    Saw that on a car today. Funny yet ignorant.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rob

    Science Vs. Religion.. Score 1 for Science!!! We finally found a Goldilocks Planet. Life is out there baby!!! What does your "god" have to say about how life on this planet was created or this planet itself for that matter?

    September 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Wake up

    My friends, global warming DOES NOT exist. It is a government SCAM to make money and hold regular citizens accountable for areas in which they would otherwise have to pay individuals to do (i.e. sorting garbage). I recommend NOT having a recycling bin and throwing everything into the trash, as I do. This planet is just evidence of existing life. Nothing else. Do not be fooled, this planet does not have an expiry date.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • blue

      Read a book.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      I nominate you to be shipped to Gliese 581g.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • George from LA

      You really are a moron. take your own advise and Wake Up! Do you really believe oil reserves will last forever? Do you really believe that releasing massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere while at the same time decreasing the only thing that can decrease CO2 levels (forests) will not have an effect on the planet?

      Go back to eating your road kill and get off the internet.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      Go get an education.

      September 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ed

    Scientist can't say for certain if life exists 20 light years away. It is all speculation. If they haven't even discovered a theory to unify quantum mechanics and relativity that can be tested.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      what does unifying quantum mechanics and relativity have to do with finding life in the universe?! You act like because we don't know everything, we can't know anything.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. peter

    @shaun
    Shaun if you had any common sense you would have come to the conclusion that we could mine mars or any one of jupitors moons. There are many uninhabitable plantets and moons we could exploit =)

    September 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bill G

    There is no other intelligent life out there. God seeded but one planet with his creation, created in His image. And while evolutionists, atheists and all other manner of God-less people would love to find intelligent life on another planet to strike a blow to God's word – it's just not going to happen.

    To understand this argument better, read the following:

    http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2196

    September 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • God

      I made the universe so that wherever intelligent life can arise, it WILL arise. See you in a few decades 😉

      September 30, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Ha ha ha ... too funny. You are joking right?

      September 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      You are an IDIOT! Thank "god" people like you will eventually cease to exist and this world will finally be rid of the annoyance that is religion. How do you explain the rest of the universe and other planets when "god" only created Earth? When you're sick and dying, you can pray to god for help. I'll stick with science and maybe one day they can keep me alive long enough that I can hang out with some cool aliens as we laugh about ignorant people like you.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      Forgive them father, they know not about which they speak.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      Right. Which god did that again?

      September 30, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      You think you are created in the image of the creator of the universe?! That's pretty arrogant.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David

    YHWH.....said ...no one can enter the heavens but by me

    September 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      no she/ he didn't.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • George from LA

      Could the "Heavens" really mean the name of a planet far away?

      Could "no one can enter the Heavens but me" really mean that "God" is the only one that has the technology to reach the planet "Heavens"?

      I don't know but it seems to me the Bible implies God is an advanced alien from another planet. Or did you idiots think Heavens meant the space between Earth's crust and the beginning of space? or even space itself?

      If God really created Earth, don't you think he created another planet better than Earth for himself?

      September 30, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      No, no gods created anything. Now go concern yourself with something real.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dj

    So religious nuts.. who "created" this planet? which one of so many gods? jesus or mohammed or zeus? maybe santa clause? hmm..

    September 30, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott B

      I'm no religious person, but why do you think your being smart there? At least in Christianity the Bible said that God created the heavens and Earth. No reason he couldn't create a planet 20 ly away from us.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      The "bible" is not a source of information. It is a work of badly written fiction.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • idahodave

      The bible is full of tons of historically accurate information, wisdom, and amazing writing (spiritual matters aside). Anyone who says otherwise is delusional or uninformed.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      I read it. It's horrible. Blow the dust of yours and give leviticus a read... perhaps you could use a refresher on burt offering procedures, or how to sell your daughter into slavery.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brian

    What they mean is that all of the info they have leads them to believe that life has a chance to be there. 100% that there is a chance. It's just worded poorly. The fact that it is the same mass as earth but 3 times the size may mean it does not have an iron core which would suck for life. You need the spinning iron core to generate the magnetic shield that blocks all of the solar radiation. Also, I thought red dwarfs were more violent than medium sized yellow stars. Can't remember. But you definately need the star to be stable. Red dwarfs have a longer life span though which helps. If life was wiped out on earth today, I don't think there would be enough time to create intelligent life before it got too hot from our expanding sun.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brian B.

    Do you really want to trust a scientist who refers to something as a "100% chance"..."I have almost no doubt about it.". Um, 100% means it's a certainty. Like the following statement: "I am 100% certain that this guy is not really 100% certain".

    September 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jvtrain

    This is ridiculous. God made life on Earth per the book of Genesis. Are we going to theorize that life came from nothing out in space too? There ain't no room for science in mah bahble.

    I'm just kidding. This is awesome news. Although, do we know if it has a moon, or many moons? That could be imperative to life coming about as well. Or regulating certain aspects of it.

    On a separate topic, why have we Earthlings never set up some type of high beam signaling from space that would project patterns or non random flashes in order to try to signal potential observers out there? I know we've flashed a laser before, but what about something new?

    September 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      Check your source. Your BuyBull contradicts itself in Genesis 1 and 2 on the "creation". Which one do you think is right?

      September 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • SDCyclist

      To answer your question.... we don't really need to put up a sign saying "We're here." We already have one. Earth itself. Any civilization at or about the same intelligence as us would just need to do what we do to judge if there's life on a planet – spectroscopy. We can analyze the light coming from a body (star or planet) and determine the chemical makeup of that body based on the light it emits. We're actually already one, giant "blinking" light in the Universe – and we're saying "We're here."

      September 30, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jrssie

      I wonder if the Bible actually does touch on life else where. I've always thought this verse did. " In my Father's house there are many mansions, if it where not true I would have told you"

      September 30, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. kentiann

    this is amazing.... it is so great to finally know that there is other potential life in the universe. yay

    September 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. peter

    @bill
    Bill i can assure you that in the next 50 years we will find microbic life, this however wont change your views because just like your predocessors have done you will admit you were wrong and find something else to say science cant discover

    September 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    If light cannot escape dark matter how do we expect our spaceship to get through?

    September 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Right. That's the same reason I don't go sailing in boats, I am afraid to fall off the edge of the earth.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Daniel

    Cool. Just imagine the life forms on the dark side. I'd say that could be pretty amaziing!

    September 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
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