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. Sundayozonsi

    I will to be there.

    August 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • lolonyou

      It's worth trying to contact it. Send in the PROBES.. If there IS life, see if it notices that. Keep looking. Earth was no accident and the 'big_bang' theory falls flat in logic..nothing comes from nothing..we live, take up 3 dimential space, have rules of physics, yet all this sprang from 'nothing' ? We've just noticed how ignorant we are about what's out there. I'd be thrilled to find ANYTHING moving on ANY planet, ANYWHERE..

      September 12, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Seriously?

    If there's a 100% chance of life on this planet, why does he say he has ALMOST no doubt about it? If he has any doubt at all, that means that he's not 100% sure.

    August 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • tor

      He should have said he was almost certain it was 110% chance of life. That way the over-certainty would cancel out the doubt.

      December 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    ive already looked at this planet with all of my resources available and i do not think that there is a 100 percent chance for life on the planet, rather there is a 25 percent chance because the planet is tidally locked, and that means that they have no night. also they will be nothing like humans or any life we know of for that matter, i highly doubt intelligent , or even complex life, will ever form on "gliese 581g"

    August 30, 2011 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Theguy

      They said life, Plants are considered life to there buddy and thats probably are what there referring to

      December 14, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Erik Johanson

    I would be surprised if we didn't find any life out there. Cause if you think about it there are over 500 billion galaxies in the universe. and scientists have discovered other universes. and some of those universes may contain other galaxies. a galaxy can have hundreds of billions of stars, and circling those stars are planets. so there has to be at least one planet or moon out there that can support life.

    January 29, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Not Bill Nye

    There is obviously life somewhere in this universe. Sometimes we may find a planet 1,000,000 light years away. We find that there is life, but not very intelligent life. But we do have to understand that we are looking at the way the planet was 1,000,000 years in the past, so it could be very developed today

    February 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. loupro

    Oh stopp it! We must learn to manage this Earth before thinking of another home, and no there is no life there!

    June 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |

    peace. absolute nonsense. life is created here as Adam and EVE and from them (pbuh) multiplied. to then go onto to go onto..other worlds from here, well, are u on other worlds with air to breath.?and Ull'lah God to worship?

    July 2, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Karnida

    More inhabitants? For what? They have adacvned robots for dirty work, they have powerfull inteligent computers etc. You can imagine type 3 or 4 (in my scale) with only few or even one inhabitant with powerfull equipment, but using only couple Terrawats energy for his needs. With the help of black hole you can have a lot of energy, acreation disc and jets are very powerfull potential source of energy (look at quasars).

    July 13, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ted

    Why not flat out say that there is life on that planet instead of saying you are 100% sure. It makes me 100% sure that he is not 100% sure.

    November 11, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Natural

    I hope no one is planning on visiting Gliese because am not ready to watch Earth get sucked dry of resources because we actually want to attend a planets visiting day.

    January 9, 2013 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. yomamma123

    was god refering he created adom or atom o_0

    March 1, 2013 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. markmbha

    20 LY is quite a l o n g w a y...
    But at least there may be other planets with life!
    We are NOT alone?

    May 29, 2013 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Zoe

    That's cool

    June 2, 2013 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Genesis McKenzie

    We have poisonous plants and we have had dinosaurs in the past, right? So, they too need to watch out for dinosaur like creatures and poisonous plants, and not just land on the planet. They must be careful or else we might be sending our people to their deaths to be eaten by other plants or creatures (if they eat meat).

    July 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Scottish Mama

    Let us send the politicians there, just rule amounst themselves?

    July 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
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