Habitable Planet Confirmed: LIQUID WATER PRESENT!

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Habitable Planet Confirmed: LIQUID WATER PRESENT!

http://dvice.com/archives/2011/05/gliese-581d-con.php

" French scientists have confirmed with computer models that Gliese 581d, a planet orbiting a red dwarf star about 20 light years from here, has a stable atmosphere, comfortable temperatures, and a surface covered in liquid water. It's the first planet orbiting another star that could definitely support life, and it's basically next door.


While Gliese 581d is too small and far away to observe directly, we can infer some things about it from the gravitational effects that it has on its parent star and fellow planets. We know that Gliese 581d is about twice the size of Earth (and six times the mass), we know that it's rocky (not a gas giant like Jupiter or Saturn). This means that it's large enough and dense enough to be able to hold on to a substantial atmosphere. We can also estimate about how much energy Gliese 581d receives from its red dwarf star, and based on all of this information, French scientists have been able to model a range of potential climates showing that "GJ581d will have a stable atmosphere and surface liquid water for a wide range of plausible cases."

"Will have" is a pretty strong language when you're talking about a planet some 117,569,996 million miles away, but based on the models, it sounds like it's a sure thing. That's not to say it would necessarily be a pleasant place to live, though. Gliese 581d probably depends on a significant greenhouse effect to keep itself warm since it gets relatively little energy from its star. The atmosphere is mostly CO2, and while you'd get clouds and warm rain and oceans and stuff, the surface itself would be "in a perpetual murky red twilight." The planet also may be tidally locked (meaning that one side perpetually faces its sun), and at double Earth's gravity, it's not exactly a vacation spot.

Despite all this, it would be an ideal place to find some extraterrestrial plant life, and where there are plants there might be animals, specifically animals which have adapted to high gravity, low light, low oxygen environment. So think small and low to the ground with big eyes. And of course, there's lots of potential for animal life in warm oceans, too.

While 20 light years is extremely close on the galactic scale, using current technology it would still take us humans about 300,000 years to reach the Gliese system. A better bet, at least for now, might be to just send an interstellar probe, which might be able to reach Gliese 581d in just a century or two. "

HELL YEAH!!

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to known." - Carl Sagan

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Thunderios
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Nice!The only downside to

Nice!

The only downside to these news articles, to me, is that they're always potential life-supporting planets, because it's impossible to directly observe life, since it's merely very complex chemistry (if only we had a soul, or something, and we could detect that...).

Still, it's nice to know that we can tweak the Drake equation a little bit more closely to the actual numbers.


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Awesome!

Awesome!

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That's very cool news. 

That's very cool news.

 


Vastet
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I think we're at 3 or 4

I think we're at 3 or 4 planets within a HZ that could support water now. I remember reading about this one a few months ago. Pretty amazing how quickly it's all coming together now, especially coupled with the confirmation that there is in fact a lot more planets than stars in our galaxy, and an amazing number of them are rogue.

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 Well, I would not get too

 Well, I would not get too excited about the Gliese 581 system right now. We have the chemistry of the parent star and that does not really support the idea of a planet being all that much like the earth. Rather more probable is that G581d is more of a snow ball with some heavier elements.

 

In any case, we have the beginning of other data on just how common earth like planet might be. From the Max Planck telescope, which only checked a slice of sky as wide as a pinky nail held at arm length and only out 2,000 ly (remember that the galaxy as a whole is about 100,000ly wide), we now have 5 possible planets of interest. Of note is that that survey is also biased towards finding planets that cross in front of the parent star. Many will not from our direction.

 

Also, the Hubble just recently did a similar survey but on a more densely populated section of the sky. We don't have the planetary data yet (public law lets astronomers hold back on that for up to a year) but we know that they found some interesting stuff. In fact, it was in the news just the other day that the new Hubble data found a bunch of hot, young stars in the center of the galaxy where they did not expect to find such. It is that that the astronomical community is excited about today. Still though, the odds are that the new Hubble data will have a decent number of candidate planets when it comes out next spring.

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Vastet wrote:I think we're

Vastet wrote:

I think we're at 3 or 4 planets within a HZ that could support water now. I remember reading about this one a few months ago. Pretty amazing how quickly it's all coming together now, especially coupled with the confirmation that there is in fact a lot more planets than stars in our galaxy, and an amazing number of them are rogue.

Rogue planets? Never heard of them before, but they seem unbelievable. Holy crap, next time someone tries to scare people with Nibiru, I'll tell them to be grateful that it's not a freakin' Jupiter-sized planet coming our way out of nowhere. And I don't want to think what life forms might be living in there. Too bad this wasn't known back in 1950's, some amazing fiction could have been written since then. 

 

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Heh. Fortunately we'd be

Heh. Fortunately we'd be able to see a Jupiter coming from lightyears away, and have plenty of time to evacuate the planet.

One of the interesting things to think about, since you mentioned it, is that if the conditions were right, a rogue planet similar to Jupiter would potentially be able to support life as we know it on a moon thanks to atmospheric drag and gravitic interactions warming the core.

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