Tag: Gliese 581g

Um… That "Goldilocks" Exoplanet May Not Exist

By Jennifer Welsh | October 12, 2010 5:44 pm

Gliesewhut2A group of Swiss astronomers announced yesterday at the International Astronomical Union’s annual meeting in Turin, Italy, that they couldn’t detect the “goldilocks” exoplanet found by U.S. researchers a few weeks ago. That news of that planet, dubbed Gliese 581g, generated much excitement, since researchers said it was only three times the size of Earth, and it appeared to lie in the habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface.

It didn’t take long for some cold water to be thrown on the astronomical community and the space-loving public. Presenter Francesco Pepe and his colleagues claim that it will be years before the data is clear enough to see such a planet.

“We do not see any evidence for a fifth planet … as announced by Vogt et al.,” Pepe wrote Science in an e-mail from the meeting. On the other hand, “we can’t prove there is no fifth planet.” No one yet has the required precision in their observations to prove the absence of such a small exoplanet, he notes. [ScienceNOW].

Such small planets are very hard to find. Astronomers discover these planets by calculating how they interact with the star they orbit, making it wiggle ever so slightly. The American team that identified the planet a few weeks ago saw the wiggles when analyzing a combination of two sets of data.

Astronomer Paul Butler, a member of the U.S. team who is at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., says he can’t comment on the Swiss work because he wasn’t at the meeting and the data are unpublished. He notes, however, that more observations will likely be needed to solidify the existence of Gliese 581g. “I would expect that on the time scale of a year or two this should be settled.” [ScienceNOW].

There will be more information available when the Swiss team releases its data and methods, but for now you might want to unpack your bags.

Related content:
Bad Astronomy: Possible earthlike planet found in the Goldilocks zone of a nearby star!
Discoblog: So, How Long Would It Take to Travel to That Exciting New Exoplanet?
80beats: New Telescope Could Reveal a Milky Way Packed With Habitable Planets
Bad Astronomy: HUGE NEWS: first possibly Earthlike extrasolar planet found!
80beats: Don’t Pack Your Bags Yet—New Planet-Finder Hobbled by Electronic Glitch

Image: NSF

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space

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

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space
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