Archive for September 30th, 2010

Fun science news in the Telegraph today, as scientists announce the discovery of the first genuinely Earth-like planet found orbiting another star –  Gliese 581, a red sun:

The most interesting of the two new planets is Gliese 581g, with a mass three to four times that of the Earth and an orbital period of just under 37 days.

Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet with a definite surface and that it has enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere, according to Prof Vogt.

Gliese 581g is located 20 light years away from Earth in the constellation Libra.

The planet is tidally locked to the star, meaning that one side is always facing the star and basking in perpetual daylight, while the side facing away from the star is in perpetual darkness.

The researchers estimate that the average surface temperature of the planet is between -24 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-31 to -12 degrees Celsius).

Actual temperatures would range from blazing hot on the side facing the star to freezing cold on the dark side.

The surface gravity would be about the same or slightly higher than Earth’s, so that a person could easily walk upright on the planet, Prof Vogt said.

Life at either the eastern or western “poles” would be miserable, but should be quite possible in a broad band around the boundary between the light and dark sides, though you’d need a jacket. But, imagine what the view would be like from your hillside vacation chateau, under a cherry-red sun that takes up most of the sky.

A companion article talks about the possibilities of water and native life Gliese 581g. Sorry, no ten-foot tall Smurfs.


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