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. brian

    Because of the gravity, all the chicks will be short and fat, what a terrible place it must be, maybe like Detroit.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brett


      September 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. valmarie

    I now for a 100% there is no live in that planet

    September 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rockyrooster

    Yeah sure. How can they tell all those things just from wobbling in a telecsope image? Unless somehow we discover how to travel at light speed, I doubt we will be going there anytime soon, but we need to try for the future of Humanity, unless Jesus comes back first.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Monika

      :Well, keep in mind, it's BASED on the Gliese system but it's fitcion! I'm not writing ABOUT the actual place (there are several nearby moons and space stations which are colonized, in my version) but the characteristics of life on a red star are the same.

      July 11, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |


    September 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SethroTull

    I like the quote that says "The chances for life on this planet are 100 percent" followed by "I have ALMOST no doubt about it." I guess that takes away the 100%?

    September 30, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. zeeon

    I have an idea – lets get SETI to point there stuff at Gilese 581g and see if we can receive some signals. Lets stop wasting money and time searching 'empty' space and start listening to planets that we may think actually have some sort of life already existing on it.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wha

      I'm sure they have already been there/done that several times. Don't you think they would look at the closer more likely candidates first???

      September 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tomoyo

    I'm no expert, obviously, but how can gravity be similar if it is 3x the size of the Earth? Is the mantle less dense?

    September 30, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wang Long

      If the planet has the same density as earth, then the gravity at its surface will be 3^(1/3), which is about 1.44 times that of earth. The estimate on wiki is from 1.1 to 1.7 earth gravity.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. cavemanstyle

    I don't now if there is any live on this planet either.....

    September 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • MikinAZ

      intelligent life anyway...

      September 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brett

    Carl Sagan once said this about the planet Venus, "Observation...can't see anything. Conclusion: DINOSAURS."

    September 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MikinAZ

    I wonder why the bible, quran, book of mormon etc – make no reference to this?..oh yeah those are fictional books written by men who lived before the age of science (except the more recent book of mormon)

    September 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bud

      If you buy a Chevy, do you get an Owner's Handbook that also covers Ford, Chrysler, Caddie and other car types? Your question only shows your lack of education.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • shecky

      ignorance is bliss, yup.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeeeah okay.

      @Bud I love those religious sayings that morons use, and then other morons nod their heads and think the saying is so relevant and true, when actually it makes no sense at all. Keep at it religious people, you make me smile more and more every day.

      September 30, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. skytech5

    with...the "commercial space weill be there in no time

    September 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |

    Actually AVATAR got the plot from American History 101. Has anyone seen any indians lately?

    September 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • balok

      I buy my cigarettes from Indians.

      September 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dean

    Great lets pack up all the republicans and tea party people, Glen Beck , Hannity, Rush oh heck we'll even throw in Fox News and send them there

    September 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wha

      Sounds like a great plan. We'll call it new Earth, or maybe just Texas. The old Earth will now be known as California.
      Oh, by the way, our borders will be closed.

      September 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • sal

      That sounds like a good idea. seperate the conservatives and the liberals and see who spends themselves into oblivion first. then when, (obviously) the conservatives saved the money to return, they can have the planet back

      September 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Chuck

    Sweet!! Now to build a warp drive...

    September 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      September 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. donyahelwa

    That's what I'm saying for months now. Avatar is based on 100% real life. Except that the planet is actually quit accessible for us but the government and the movie director don't want to tell us where did they shoot the movie. I think Bill Gates is involved in this.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • andy111

      you forgot to mention about government conspiracy.... and that church doesn't want us to know how much they are wrong...

      September 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edinzon

      >Resulta fascinante que en tan poco timpeo ya se este9n detectando planetas rocosos en zona habitable, deben haber muchos me1s de los que pensamos. Yo creo que deben haber vida en forma de microbios o bacterias en muchas estrellas cercanas a nosotros, incluso algunos ff3silos bif3ticos en alguna luna o Marte en nuestro sistema solar. No obstante la vida inteligente que haya desarrollado tecnologeda pienso que debe estar mucho, mucho me1s lejos.a1Un abrazo!

      July 11, 2012 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
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