How Excited Should We Be About the New "Goldilocks" Exoplanet?

By Andrew Moseman | September 30, 2010 10:03 am

gliese581From Phil Plait:

Astronomers have announced the discovery of a planet with about three times the Earth’s mass orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 581. That in itself is cool news; a planet like that is very hard to detect.

But the amazing thing is that the planet’s distance from the star puts it in the Goldilocks Zone: the region where liquid water could exist on its surface!

Gliese 581 is about 20 light years away, and astronomers think the planet in the habitable zone is one of at least six in that star system. The new exoplanet orbits much closer to its star than Earth orbits the sun, but its star is a red dwarf, so it needs to be closer to stay warm enough to support liquid water.

But just how like the Earth is this new world? And what does it mean for the prevalence of ‘Goldilocks” planets out there? To find out, read the rest of the post at Bad Astronomy. And check out the scientists’ paper about Gliese 581 (pdf).

Related Content:
Bad Astronomy: Possible earthlike planet found in the Goldilocks zone of a nearby star!
80beats: Astronomers Find 2 Giant Exoplanets Locked in an Endless Dance
80beats: Kepler’s Early Results Suggest Earth-Like Planets Are Dime-a-Dozen
80beats: Temperate, Jupiter-Sized World Resembles the Planets of Our Solar System

Image: ESO

  • Rhacodactylus

    People are acting as though how excited we should be depends on whether or not we find Green women on the planet. Just the discovery of this type of planet in this position is positive news, because if we found one, there are likely many many more like it.


  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM


    But ironically, we have found _the next_ habitable planet, so we can make Earth count. Conversely, if Gliese 581 g is an erroneous prediction (small signal, possible systematic errors), it will still define a “habitability search volume” despite being in error since it is a possible positive! (Much so now, but even so then.) Since Earth remains, it would only halve the observed ~10-30 % habitability frequency of stars.

    Statistics and its backbreaking logic – you gotta love it. 😀

  • Michael Gliese

    The only plausible explanation that works is that ourselves and everything we know and see from in front of us to Gliese 581 and beyond are computer generated algorithms.
    Follow this guy on twitter for humor on life on gliese 581


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