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. Oj

    Ha i wonder how much fuel man will need to burn to take scientists to this damn planet...

    October 29, 2010 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Thron

      No fuel OJ. There will be a giant elevator.

      October 29, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Mavent

      You only need fuel to leave orbit and to land. Inertia takes care of everything else.

      November 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Ya Oj the way they will find its suitable for life is to send a rover (kind of like Mars) and take samples and water and test it. My thoughts... Oh and they would need alot of fuel and rockets I think... ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Drayb

    Very cool. Too bad it isn't closer to us.

    October 29, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • dj


      October 30, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      20 Light Years is pretty damn close, cosmically speaking. Most stars would take, even at a theoretical maximum travel speed, longer to reach than the entirety of human history. This one could be theoretically reached within a human lifetime. Not that ANY interstellar travel is even remotely possible in the foreseeable future...

      November 7, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Bowman

      20 light-years is just in our backyard in astronomical terms.

      February 25, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. steve505

    So... scientist A says there is a 100% chance that there is life on that planet. Then scientist B says they haven't even concluded if there is water on the planet.


    October 29, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • MrEee

      "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."

      I'm 100% confident that 100% would mean no doubt, not 'almost' no doubt. Lol.

      October 29, 2010 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      A 100% chance merely means all the conditions are in place for life to exist. It says nothing about whether life actually exists. A 50% chance would mean that the possibility for life to exist on the planet was 50-50. It does not mean that half as much life exists on the planet as compared to 100%

      October 30, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Boingo

      Scientist A said there is a 100% chance FOR life to arise on the planet, not that it undoubtedly currently DOES exist.

      November 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      LOL – he says "100%" then says "almost"

      November 8, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • one4two

      So desperate to prove we are the result of random chance they pic some rock floating around a "Dwarf" star which by description sounds nothing like Earth and declares there is 100% chance of life on this planet. And these guys are our best and brightest???

      November 10, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |

      60 percent of the time it works all the time

      November 15, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miko2000

      I'm sure that's exactly what happened...scientists pointed a billion dollar telescope randomly into the sky in order to form hasty conclusions about life in an attempt to do battle with creationist 'theorists'.

      November 17, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • John in NY

      100% chance means some scientist is talking out of his @ss to try and get media coverage.

      November 22, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tom

    A scientist saying that there's a 100 percent chance for life on that planet? Um, that's not science, it's speculation. He should be embarrassed. Oh wait, he's a college professor - they never get embarrassed.

    October 29, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      That's no joke. I'm sure he just mis-worded his statement in excitement, so what he said is no biggie in my mind, but in general there is no group of people more disconnected from reality than professors.

      November 8, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NYYFan1

    SUPER-COOL !! Now, is there any way we could send Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich, GW Bush and Dick Cheney to this far-off planet ?? PLEASE ??

    October 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • go

      send them to set up a good working goverment....good idea.....or we could send the commies that are in charge now!!!

      October 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • palinisanidiot

      Good thinking...see how Palin could probably see this planet from her house, I'm sure she'll feel right at home.

      November 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Cape Canaveral

      Interesting point ~ if you isolate a group of Conservatives vs a group of Liberals. Who would get things done? Who would stand around waiting for things to be done for them? Who would take the initiative to build shelters, gather food, becoming self-sufficient, and who would start inventorying the resources of others to set up an "equitable" distribution of resources? Yes, and interesting concept.

      My money is on the Conservatives to survive. As in practice; self-sufficiency is ALWAYS the best practice!

      November 6, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • larrybrains

      That is a wonderful idea for a reality tv show. Or they could separate the groups on survivor by their political stance. Brilliant!

      November 9, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grumpy

      You can't send that bunch out there and pollute another planet. We should be concentrating on getting rid of detritus like them on Earth.

      November 9, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Paul in Cape Canaveral – Your idea of "self sufficiency" will likely lead to the extinction of our species. How about adopting a new paradigm that looks out for the sustainable survival of life in general and values perpetual existence?

      November 11, 2010 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
    • marcee

      YES!!!!!!!!!!!! But I think we should send them to the sun in like that one episode of the Simpsons.

      November 13, 2010 at 3:45 am | Report abuse |
    • ryansci

      @ go Looks like someone isn't over the red scare yet. This person must have be using the internet for the first time in a newly built library.

      November 15, 2010 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
    • ryansci

      Why would they go to a place like that unless they knew there was oil there?

      November 15, 2010 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Getsmine

      Great idea! Except how would you get them there? Liberals like you would never spring a dime for space exploration. That money can be better spent supporting more welfare babies.....I mean future democrats.

      November 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • dmas

      hopefully theres room for you to, nyyfan1

      November 17, 2010 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Miko2000

      I assume that they disbelieve the existence of space and stars, since the universe is only 6,000 years old and humans coexisted with dinosaurs.

      November 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      No! Don't waste such a promising planet on those freaks. We could give them a one-way ticket to, say, Mercury.

      MUCH cheaper, and it really does have a 100% chance of NO LIFE.


      November 24, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hope

    Ok, is that another planet we are going to move in, use up all resources and destroy? Deja-vu...Let's see if we can do better HERE first without destroying another planet.

    October 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba from WV

      Only problem with sending conservatives is they'll destroy this planet like they've done ours then blame it on Obama. The sad thing about that is most mindless americans will believe them.

      November 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • KMS

      I agree with you 100%.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hope

    Ok, is that another planet we are going to move in, use up all resources and destroy? Deja-vu...

    October 29, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Animal

      If there is life on this planet that's anywhere near, let alone surpassing our intelligence, they might not take too kindly to our showing up and taking their resources.

      November 4, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul in Cape Canaveral

      I'll bet you're one of those folks who propose that Humans be eliminated so that the Earth may exist without our interference?

      How weird your paradigm is!

      November 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I'm still waiting for him to be the first adopter of his paradigm! Put your money where your mouth is, sir!

      November 8, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • cinnamonbear

      Considering the fact, we do not currently have the technology to go somewhere 20 light years away.... worrying about whether we're planning to steal the planets resources sounds super-stupid... just supernova-stupid.... why is anyone wasting their time thinking about something we can't do until way after everyone has forgotten what a Republican and a Democrat is which is Supernova stupid too.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Going Bust

    I swear today's scientists are mindless simpletons compared to the guys from the first half of the last century. Based on this tiny bit of data a professor announces that "The chances for life on this planet are 100 percent," We aren't even sure if life would occur on a planet that completely replicated the conditions of the Earth. It may have involved some luck. The fact is, we don't know all the requirements. But for this planet, which is very unlike Earth (it is tidally locked with 98% of the surface either baking in perpetual heat or perpetually frozen), he declares it's a 100% chance for life. A person giving him the benefit of the doubt would call him an optimist. Personally, I call him an idiot. Scientists have a duty to be a little more skeptical than this fool.

    October 29, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Walken1

      Amen. Agree 100 percent (and in my case, I really mean it!).

      October 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Takara

      Imagine if our planet were stuck in a rotation like that. There would be a zone between the hot and cold side were life could exist. It would only be like a few dozen miles wide or so, but it would be there. In that temperature zone, life could exist since it is a constant temperature with the planet staying in a synchronous orbit.

      October 30, 2010 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Earth

      What will happen when our earth stop to rotate when losing its energy for movement? All regions will be divided by lights and darkness. It will change all systems. Prepare for it.

      October 31, 2010 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Scos

      I agree, the fact of the matter is scientists don't know the requirements of how life can exist. Those claims that they brought up are merely speculations.

      November 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • JPopNC

      Perfectly said Going Bust. Calling him an "optimist" is putting it WAY too mildly. What's an optimist times a million?

      November 8, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • salgood sam

      @Going Bust: agreed, i appreciated his enthusiastic but when he knows he's going to be quoted he should be a lot more exacting in his choice of words. There's high value chance conditions exist for bacterial like life there, anything more goes beyond our understanding of the possible parameters for evolutionary drive to give rise to it, given the fairly extreme conditions. That's as much as he should have said, even i know that and i'm a cartoonist.

      @Earth: Be prepared for it?

      it will take almost 1.9 trillion years to stop spinning, the sun it's self will last only 6 billion or so years, and be inhabitable from earth for only about 4 billion years. You and i will be lucky if we live 100 years, that's enough time for 40 million life times end to end.

      And long long long BEFORE the planet gets a chance to stop spinning.
      Be prepared for what, boredom?

      November 9, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Grossbow

    No scientist should be saying 100% about anything. Even F=ma turned out not to be true at relativistic speeds.

    October 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ryansci

      and I'm suppose to believe what you said 100%? Ah the paradox begins.

      November 15, 2010 at 3:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. Earth

    What will happen when our earth stop to rotate when losing its energy for movement? All regions will be divided by lights and darkness. It will change all systems. Prepare for it !!

    October 31, 2010 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
    • salgood sam

      Be prepared for it?

      it will take almost 1.9 trillion years for earth to stop spinning, the sun itself will last only 6 billion or so years, and be inhabitable from earth for only about 4 billion years.

      You and i will be lucky if we live 100 years, that's enough time for 40 million life times end to end.

      And long long long BEFORE the planet gets a chance to stop spinning.

      Be prepared for what, boredom?

      November 9, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • FusionAfterBigBang

      The other planets moon sun galaxy also lose its energy slowly after big-bang fission. It can be the fusion by all galaxy to make more steady universe. Earth can stop to rotate faster when more asteroids close to earth. Maybe trillions are infinite for human. But for universe and its endless time space trillions is one unit of time for the other next trillions years.

      November 11, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. McJesus

    Load up the rocketship with Missionaries. We can bring the aliens the word of Jesus(tm). Obviously he died for their sins too. Yeah. I'm sure they'll fall for that one head over heels. ;P

    November 2, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Animal

      We can start by sending them Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, John Hagee, James Dobson, Rod Parsley, and Benny Hinn. We can also send the entire Westboro Baptist Church there, since they're claiming that God hates this planet, even though he created it. Of course if the life on that planet is anything like us, they'd no doubt have gays too.

      November 4, 2010 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
    • JPopNC

      Actually, Christ died for your sins specifically. "or Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God"

      November 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rangerpapa

      South Park did that! lol

      November 10, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark S.

      Read the short story "The Man," by Ray Bradbury. Interesting take on Jesus in the stars.

      November 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merkwurdigliebe

      Send Richard Dawkins, he can become a god on THAT planet too.

      November 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Megan Lewis

    Thanks this was great information, but I'm not sure anyone can be 100% sure that there is life on this planet. What if there is a gas in the air that can not support life? I'm not sure you can be positive, I'm 100% sure about that.

    November 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MuddyBuddy

    A Distance of 20 light years makes it possible that we could send a ship to that planet, but it would take a 100 years or so unless drive systems get a whole lot better. However, its huge news that a potentially inhabitable planet is within reach. I wonder how long until their Missionaries, army, sales aliens or whatever show up here?

    November 3, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. MuddyBuddy

    I wonder if the scientist really said or meant to say that finding this Earth Like Planet meant that he was almost certain that like exists somewhere in the galaxy based off the apparent very large numbers of planets out there. That makes sense. Otherwise, even if this planet is an exact copy of Earth, we have no idea how likely it would be to have life.

    November 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jon

    I can guarantee you 100% the Christian missionaries will get there before anyone.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • tristanavedon

      What a depressing thought.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
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