Astronomer Steven Vogt of University of California Santa Cruz calls the new Earth-like planet discovered a ‘Goldilocks’ planet. A terrestrial planet that is neither too hot nor too cold, orbiting a dwarf red star Gliese 581 in a ‘habitable zone’. During a briefing yesterday in Washington DC, Vogt and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institute announced a first in astronomy, the discovery of a new Earth-like planet in deep space. Known as Gliese 581g, the newly found world is about 20 light years away and about three times the size of Earth. Sara Seager, a planetary astronomer at MIT, says Gliese 581g may be suitable to support life.

Earth like planet Gliese 581g

Before you pack your bags and sell your home and belongings, keep in mind that while Gliese 581g may be Earth-like, there is still much that is unknown. For starters, does it have an oxygen atmosphere? How about water? We sort of need these to live. There’s also that other question, is there life already on the planet? Will they be good neighbors or bad?

The new planet, Gliese 581g, was discovered by Vogt and the team of astronomers at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. About an hour’s drive from Waimea, Vogt travels there from California several times a year to conduct the search for exoplanets. Some 11 years of research and observations went into this new discovery in the constellation of Libra.

Recently, thanks to new technology and analytical software, many new planets have been discovered outside of our own solar system. Most of these are large gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn. Many of them have orbits that are well outside the ‘habitable zone’. They are either too close to their star and therefore too hot, or too far and too cold, to be considered capable of sustaining life.

Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institute believes the new Earth-like planet discovered is no fluke, that there may be many more. The planet Gliese 581g falls within the habitable zone, which is why Steven Vogt refers to the terrestrial planet as being in the Goldilocks zone. Vogt is calling the new planet Zarmina after his wife. The new Earth-like planet is far away in space. The star, Gliese 581 is about 20 light years away. With our current technology for space travel, it would take over 10,000 years to reach it.

Gliese 581g habitable zone planetGliese 581 habitable zone

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