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. Zaf

    Let's send a set of new born children there. Send with them a tape of the English language, some clothes, important facts and how to make important essential items like cars and houses (so we can pollute that planet too).
    And then also tell them how to make another ship so their children can visit their grandparents on earth or visit another planet incase that one blows up.

    November 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • JD

      That was funny

      December 31, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NewLifeSystem

    All living creatures make its own evolution also this nature create new life system. If all fail to evolution then all will be end. Someday human need big mansion in space with solar fuel stations or no gravitation movement by space ship with immortal human by its self regeneration the new life system the new next generation of human. Human need evolution to survive.

    November 22, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. keithj

    Let's clarify something. 100% chance means it is possible for life to exist. Think of it this way, I shake two dice the sum of the 2 dice will total 2-12, there is a 100% chance of this. The chance of rolling a 0-1, or 13-infinity are 0%. There are planets that there is a 0% chance for life to exist, at least life as we know it.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TrillionYears

    Step by step we can go there by developing the nearest possible planets to live on also the transit space stations with sustainable energy in space. So when the earth is collapse human can survive on there in time so for trillion years still human can exist. How? To be the next immortal race by evolution fill in the universe.

    November 24, 2010 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. bc13

    How do scientists know that extraterrestrial life need water to live?

    December 4, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • robert

      i know right? life may NOT have to have air or water stuff that WE NEED they could like breath carbon dioxide or something else

      May 18, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Well they think we need some sort of liquid and for life as we know it needs water. The fact that there is water means that life as we know it can exist. There may be other types of life that use something else though but probably not on this planet.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JD

    I just want to know if there are some cool animals we can domesticate for new pets. Also if there are any yummy wild life we can cattle up and cook up !!! HA!!! Another thought,... I wonder if there are any cool plants we can smoke..... We might be thousands of years ahead of this planets evolution... maybe dinosaurs, cavemen, we could watch a new lord and savior be crucified in real life??? My mind is going bonkers %&% $#*&^*(& *)(*_)*& &*(^% ^$#@ http://WWW.WHAT THE.COM

    December 31, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. zac

    well if we get there these damn people that screw with our planet will screw up theres as well

    February 21, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. Drac

    completely agree. (to zac)

    sure statement has fault but it is however a ray of hope to those looking for an alive planet but guess we will have to wait till get the technology to investigate the planet further.

    On another note yeah chances are there is no life since one side is burning hot and the other is freezing cold but maybe by that time we might be able to rectify that problem =p just saying aaanyway like some have stated about an area that has the right temperature there might be something like that but since we only know of its existance and not too much else a conclusion about what is on the planet is a complete unknown but who knows maybe theres a species there that can take extreme heat or extreme cold and live there the possibilitys are endless but unless we have more information those are just possibilities for someone hoping =D long as we have hope we will try to achieve our goal that just is how we are isnt it =D if theres a chance then we should check since so far we have found planet that have had a 0% chance of life and now we found one that MAY contain life or may not but the fact is however that the chances are not 0% which is why we will try our best to get better technology to find out since our race is by nature curious =D
    Anywhere here are my 2 cents remember never lose hope in anything =D

    March 14, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Well, ive walkde to school in 0 degrees farenhet in a t shirt and jeans and i survived. 10 degrees really isnt that cold and could easily be inhabitated. Same with the heat there are things that live in extremly warm hot springs.

      August 15, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. duncan

    a non- rotating planet probably doesn't have a magnetic field so unless the solar winds from the dwarf star are just right there goes the theory of anything resembling earth based life.

    April 2, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Magnetic field has nothing to do with the rotation of a planet. It has to do with the rotation of liquid metals inside the planet. If there are volcanoes there probably is a magnetic field regardless of spin.

      August 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. S Johnson

    great discovery, and I have a perfect idea for it's use...Let's send the 1% of the population who is rich to live there, and let the middle class rule the world!

    April 21, 2011 at 6:20 am | Report abuse |
    • poorman

      S Johnson
      "great discovery, and I have a perfect idea for it's use...Let's send the 1% of the population who is rich to live there, and let the middle class rule the world!"

      Third world countries (poor people) think that people who own any modern machinery like computer etc are in 1% of the population of this world.

      May 21, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jhinelle

    This is an exciting find...but when speaking scientifically, nothing is for sure, nothing is "put in stone". A law, like the law of gravity, is still not complete and states that the law is falsifiable, because there could always be something out there that disproves a theory or law, so the scientists that claim life will 100% be sustainable or will survive on this planet are making unfalsifiable assumptions, and all good scientists should want their theories to BE falsifiable! Because only then can they know if one can disprove their assumptions 🙂

    April 24, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. ksayn

    Let's study unreachable enigmas and forget about taking care of and appreciating what we have yet to discover here on Earth.

    April 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Angie

    I don't believe that life exists on this planet they discovered. How can they be 100 percent positive of something like this? If one part of the planet is too hot, and one too cold, how can this planet house life?

    May 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zak

      Why does the life on that planet have to be the same as ours the animals there might have evolved to suit their environment as best they could. While I do agree that they can't be 100% that life exists who's to say it's just like ours?

      May 19, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      We can't think all forms of life are humanoids. There are creatures on earth that live in the desert on the hottest days and survive their coldest nights. Evolution has a way of making living things adapt to thrive and grow. There's always a happy medium some where.

      May 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. G

    Our scientists work in such a closed little box.

    June 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hanah

    this is very not nice

    July 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
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