First Potentially Habitable Earth-Like Planet Found Orbiting Nearby Star

After observing Gliese 581 (a red dwarf star 20 light years from Earth) for more than a decade via Hawaii's Keck Observatory, a research team comprised of members from UC Santa Cruz and the Carnegie Institution of Washington have finally hit pay dirt. By using a technique called Doppler spectroscopy, the team has discovered a planet (GJ 581g) that is "squarely in the middle of the habitable zone of the star", a minimum of 3.1 times the mass of Earth and most likely rocky.

A somewhat awkward (albeit informative) press release can be seen here.

The immediate implications of this discovery are that potentially habitable planets (i.e., Earth-sized, rocky and orbiting within a star's habitable zone) are likely to be abundant throughout the universe. With extrasolar planet detection in its infancy, and with a relatively small sample already yielding a return, such an assumption seems sound.

At any rate, the Kepler Mission will soon give us an even better idea of how many potentially habitable planets might actually exist.

Posted by The Author | at 11:59 AM