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. jjjwho

    Why do people post comments like they know something like i said stop posting something that you think is right when its wrong this thread should be reserved for people just thinking ideas about new life. NOT YOU S****D PEOPLE WHO THINK YOU ARE ACTUALLY SMART WHAT YOU LEARNED DOESNT MEAN ANYTHING BECUASE ITS ALREADY WRONG.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. jjjwho

    alber stop talking it says the dwarf sun doesnt produce as much heat but it will last a lot longer than our sun

    October 1, 2010 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. jjjwho

    jesus alber read before you talk becuase your just making up some random stuff

    October 1, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  4. Makabrie

    I've sat and read quite a few of the comments on this page and, on more than one occasion-or ten, for that matter-I've had to remind myself that this isn't a scientific website, but an article on the webpage of a news channel. The unbelievably stupid things that most of you have to say, remind me just how low the intelligence of the average internet user has fallen. There are, however, some few shining comments among the sea of idiocy, and for those posters, I thank you.

    For the less than intelligent of you, please do some research before you make an @$$ of yourself. Saying that there is a 100% chance of life is just saying there's a 99.9999999999998362% (fictional number) chance of life and rounding, because its easier. They can tell the density of the planet by observing its gravitational effect on the light of the sun and on the other planets. I'm too Damn tired to keep going, but anyone who wants to discuss the topic is free to e-mail me at Vincent.templar@hotmail.com, and I'll respond ASAP.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
    • jjjwho

      hmm interesting so what makes you more intelligent than the rest of us?

      October 1, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      well Ajjjwho because he is right on both accounts. Why don't you take him up on his email offer after school lets out tomorrow.

      October 27, 2010 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. david

    Why a comment about night and day on the planet? All we know is the calculated mass of the planet based on the wobble of the star. From that, you can determine the orbit and approximate mass of the planet, but how can you tell anything about the planet's day/night cycle? It sounds more like speculation to me.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. Whatever

    Perhaps we could SURVIVE, but we certainly would not THRIVE on such a planet as we do on Earth.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      You can't really assume that. If indeed the poles are complete opposites and never change, it is possible that the 'equator' area is in a perpetual growing season in the center, leading to an abundance of food, or an area that can produce food, at least. Of course, I know none of this, it's all pure speculation, but just saying you shouldn't assume it would not be habitable.

      October 27, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. Marvin

    Maybe now, after 2,000 years of research, I can complete the illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator!!!! Then I can get an EARTH Shattering Kaboom!

    October 1, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. jjjwho

    Anywho actually just to let you know calling people less intelligent is a stupid comment. What you should be writing is how our country failed to educate them. And also the "intillegent" scale is complete bs there is not one smarter than another. The only thing different between people is how much they expanded there brain for new ideas to come in. You can call someone an idiot becuase how they were raised they could only expand there mind for only few ideas to come in. What you should really blame is parents and the schools. Parents should be giving you many possible ideas instead of telling you certain answers. And teachers should be doing the same thing instead of just teaching certain information because then people will only have expanded there mind to a certain point becuase they were given only one answer or not as much as you would say "intelligent" people. What people should be doing now is expanding the youths mind so that they can start questiong whats wrong or right. Instead of going through life knowing only one answer. Becfuase thats not democracy if we followed the government and believed in one answer and it was theres Then its not democracy its more like tyrancy following the leaders that control us. Thats why more expanded mind youth can start questing our government or really everything so that it can be democracy so that we can make this country better.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • KI

      Teachers, believe it or not, are bending over backwards to meet FEDERAL directives that have almost nothing to do with good teaching, to keep their jobs. By the way, we hate doing it. We know that the children, and our society are losing, but until communities, schools, districts and states give up on 'quick-fixes' and standardized tests the outlook will not change. Teachers do not control education. We are required to respond to directives from politicians. Currently, teachers who take a stand, unless they are tenured and aware of their rights, are quickly removed. Mass firings are not the answer, test scores are not the answer, other countries are passing us in student achievement for a number of reasons related to economic development, societal values, parenting styles, etc. What to do about the depressing state of education in our country? The single strategy that would change our education system overnight, tax parents according to their students' progress. Parenting would also improve overnight.

      October 29, 2010 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  9. jjjwho

    Plz give your thought about my comment and reply i want to see how most people think these days.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joe Freely

    It's because he has things to contribute and isn't just spitting out pointless drivel and asking ridiculous questions. What do you want him to say jjjwho? Why don't you post your entire life here and he'll try to respond to it. Obviously he was making a broad and asinine assumption, but at least he had some input to this article.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. jjjwho

    No he didnt what it seemed like he did was to get on here examine the comments and then make his statement there was no input

    October 1, 2010 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. Joe Freely

    "Saying that there is a 100% chance of life is just saying there's a 99.9999999999998362% (fictional number) chance of life and rounding, because its easier. They can tell the density of the planet by observing its gravitational effect on the light of the sun and on the other planets." Please don't talk until you have at least two fvcking coherent sentences that relate to this article in some way.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chip

    Nobody sees anything inconsistent with Vogt's two statements that there's 100% chance of life AND having "almost no doubt about it."??? Gee, and I though 100% was NO doubt at all. We know next to nothing about this planet. We know its approximate location and size. That's it. We don't know if its rocky, if it has water, or if it gets fried daily with xray and UV radiation. And they call themselves scientists. These guys are worse than the flat earthers.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. Sue

    You can call me a Bible thumper if you like. I'm very proud of that name. God created something wonderful and beautiful for us. I don't believe in aliens or life on other plants. I also don't believe there's another planet meant for us. The Bible speaks of UFOs as 3 wheels rolling in the middle of the air. People need to read some in the good book. All this UfO stuff isn't new. We have studied the universe for centries and where are we? You can say all you want about all the new info we have today and how much smarter we are today. All the wonderful technology we have now. If we were so smart we would be spending our money in a way it would benefit us instead of wasting it on trying to discover a new way to build cities underwater or on a new planet. What we have here is perfect for us. We just need to clean it up. It's our home. I regret every penny of my taxes ever spent on this nonsense stuff. NOW CALL ME A BIBLE THUMPER! THANK YOU FOR THE COMPLIMENT!

    October 1, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      @ John. It's actually 2 hydrogen ATOMS and one oxygen that make up a water MOLECULE.

      October 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Science Guy

      sry to say this sue but i don't believe in god. im not trying to say ur wrong or make fun of you, but almost every religion believes that their is life on other planets . . . and nobody saying that this new planet is "meant" for us. Scientists are just trying to find life so that they can compare it to us. if they do find life and jesus visited them 2 then there is god if he didn't then the christian religion is nothing.

      October 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. aure22

    100%?! He can't be serious! I don't believe that 100% exists after all, 99.999999% is more likely...

    October 1, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
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