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. deuce

    God must have made that life on the 8th day.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. peter

    @john
    Black holes and dark matter are two seperate things. I suggest you read a book about astronomy =)

    September 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. toomuch2many

    Jvtrain, im not sure if's a great idea to signal out into space with a flashlight that's like going to the ghetto and throwing money around.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. xibo

    As long as my ex wife isn't there I'm up for a ride.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joe

    Simple Math...

    Fg = G (m1*m2)/(d^2)

    where G= gravitational constant (6.67*10^-11 Nm^2/kg^2)
    m1 and m2 = the masses object 1 and object 2 respectively
    d=the distance (in meters) between the two objects

    September 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BJC

    lETS START LOOKING FOR BIN LADEN THERE. IF THERE IS OIL THERE, I AM SURE EXXON WILL BE THE FIRST ONES.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. AYBABTU

    This is the year 2101.... we have discovered the path to traveling faster than the speed of light!

    "Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb!"

    "Cats: How are you gentleman ! !"

    September 30, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. people, dont be dumb take a look of this, learn the true!!

    http://www.disclosureproject.org/

    September 30, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • MongoSwede

      Don't be dumb, and learn the true.....

      Me fail English? thats umpossible!

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

    i dont believe this at all, life 120 trillion miles away, neither can you prove this person wrong nor right, i think this is just to keep their jobs and keep something nonsense going on.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      You clearly have no idea how this type of research is carried out.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. opAZ

    On twilight sense I might just be able to find my mirror self there.
    amen.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Larry

    The earth-like cliams are obviously not by observable, testable, repeatable science, but wishful thinking. By their criteria, our moon and Mars should also contain life. Earth is the only planet in the universe that contains biological life because it was created here. Life only comes from life, and originallly by the Creator. Put all the greatest scientific minds together and they cannot even create a bug or a blade of grass. The complexity found in all life forms requires much more than intelligence, it demands infinite omnipotence. A five year old can understand that, and so did one of the greatest scientific minds of all time: Sir Isaac Newton.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Hey genius, since life comes from all life, who created the creator? Um, I am sensing a little or rather LARGE GAP in your logic. But then again, there is no logic to religion and god so that would make sense that an ignorant person like you would say that.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      I'm always amused by the vigorous skepticism applied to scientific claims by religious people such as yourself, but when it comes to the existence of gods, the lack of evidence doesn't bother you a bit. Strange. At least be self-consistent. If you engage in magical thinking, you can't also pretend to be interested in logic and evidence.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Rob, get a dictionary or use m-w.com. Infinite = no beginning, no end. Agnostic/atheist = ignoramus.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Marty, creation is the evidence of the Creator observable to everyone. If you're blinded from seeing the truth all around you, try holding your breath for five minutes until you acknowledge who gives you breath, then read Romans 1.

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

      Your "creator" has A LOT of explaining to do. His textbook contradicts itself so many times. Even Genisis 1 and 2 can't agree with each other on the creation story! Maybe your god is just messing with us?

      September 30, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      @Larry: Rob, get a dictionary or use m-w.com. Infinite = no beginning, no end.

      So god exists and is infinite just because you say so? No evidence, just "god is infinite."

      Look it's your right to live your life through the prism of magical thinking. Just don't ask the rest of us to pretend you're using logic to derive your belief system.

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

      haha – your Agnostic/atheist = ignoramus comment comes at a bad time, when that group came out the highest in the religion quiz. But I'm sure M-W also lists smart=dumb.
      And why are you here? This is a science article. You 'too dumb to think for yourself' types should stick to commenting in sunday school. How would it look to you if we showed up at your church and started postulating creation? (if you even go to church, troll)

      September 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I think it takes a 5 year old to understand that nonsensicle logic. I recommend you google logical arguments. It's basic understanding of logical argument that can help you navigate through the endless web of crap out there. You will also be able to form better arguments yourself. Otherwise logical people read your post and think your full of crap. And you think everyone is crazy because you don't understand their logic.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      Forget all of this math and science stuff. It's much easier to just say "goddidit"...morons.
      There is no sky fairy! Get over your bronze age myths.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      RT, Genesis 2 gives further detail of Day 6; not contradictory but supplementary just as any reputable source would report an historical account. Any apparent contradiction is easily resolved: check out gty.org or answersingenesis.org if you're genuinely seeking answers.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marty

      Who created the creator?! Oh, that's right. You said the creator is infinite. I guess that clears that up then.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      JJ, most scientific disciplines were pioneered byBible-believing, 6-day creationist who used their scientific pursuits to glorify the Creator as they acknowledged and observed His handiwork and power in all their discoveries.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      Larry, I thought your book was supposed to be divinely inspired. Let me break it down for you: Gen 1: Humans came after animals. Gen 2: Humans before animals, Gen 1 Man and woman created simultaneously. Gen 2: man, then animal, then woman. Those are your small defects? Actually the two books disagree on who created the heaven and earth, how long creation took, when the plants were created with respect to humans, from what animals were created etc. There areno less than 81 contradictions in genesis alone. Your book is crap, go get educated.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Brian, the fact that we can use logic and reason is evidence of a law-giving, orderly, infinitely intelligent Creator. A cosmos where chaos was law would only result in disorder and an inability to think rationally. Everyone eventually comes to an understanding of the Creator: either in joyous humble acceptance or eternal judgment and regret.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Here let me help you out:
      http://theskepticsguide.org/resources/logicalfallacies.aspx

      "The earth-like cliams are obviously not by observable, testable, repeatable science, but wishful thinking. By their criteria, our moon and Mars should also contain life."
      Incorrect, their earth like claims are observable, testable, and repeated many many times. Observe the frequency components of the wobble, the amplitute of the wobble, and the amount of light the planet obstructs when it passes in front of the star. From this you can calculate number of planets, mass, orbital distance, speed, and size. By earth like they mean solid mass that is relative similar size that is at an orbital distance that results in a similar temperature if it has a similar atmosphere. That's all. And no, moon is too small, so it can't hold an atmosphere and Mars is outside the habitable zone. Check the Keplar website for more info.

      "Earth is the only planet in the universe that contains biological life because it was created here." Non-Sequitur
      – No logical connection

      "Life only comes from life, and originallly by the Creator. Put all the greatest scientific minds together and they cannot even create a bug or a blade of grass."
      Confusing currently unexplained with unexplainable – Just because scienctists haven't created a blade of grass today doesn't mean they can't in the future.

      "The complexity found in all life forms requires much more than intelligence, it demands infinite omnipotence." And just because scientists haven't created a blade of grass doesn't mean that whatever system did, has to be more inteligent than a scientist.

      A five year old can understand that, and so did one of the greatest scientific minds of all time: Sir Isaac Newton. Argument from Authority, well if Newton says so....

      September 30, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bill Maher

    none of your jokes are even remotely funny...bunch of hacks

    September 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John

    That's not a dwarf star solar system, That's NASCAR & the Gatorade car reflecting off the DTV satellite & your telescope lense, That's what the objects may be closer than they appear on the bottom of the screen means, wait till you get the bill.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. poncho12

    Any body know... where is technology today in relation to potential space ship speed ?? What have the rocket scientists/engineers been up to?

    September 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Texas Pete

    I would think that the tidal locking of this planet presents a significant problem to this planet sustaining life. Also, if it is -12C, then the water is not liquid and frozen water is not the useful in a molecular biology context.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texas Pete

      Unless of course the atmosphere is not close to that of earth, which would present a new set of problems anyway.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • RT

      Look to the fringes of light/ dark side. There will of course be a potential for supporting life there.

      September 30, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
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