Impression of Gliese 581g and its parent star by Lynette Cook via UCSC
Called Gliese 581g, it is three times the size of Earth, has similar gravity, and could have liquid water on the surface.
According to Steven Vogt, a UC professor of astronomy and astrophysics, “The chances for life on this planet are 100 percent, I have almost no doubt about it.”
However, earthlings won’t be traveling to Gliese 581g any time soon. Scientists say a spaceship traveling close to the speed of light would take 20 years to make this journey.
But if we did, we’d find some other things familiar. The atmosphere and gravity are similar to Earth, and if you’re from the polar regions, you’d definitely feel right at home. Scientists say the highest average temperature is about -12 degrees Celcius (10 Fahrenheit), but they point out that the planet doesn’t have a night and day—one side continually faces the star and the other side faces the darkness of space. This means one side is blazing hot and the other freezing cold.
Gliese orbits a red dwarf star called Gliese 581. Dr. Elizabeth Cunningham, planetarium astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, UK says “it’s a Goldilocks planet. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, it’s just right” for water to form.
Now, astronomers are hoping to spot more exoplanets where life could be possible.
“We’re at exactly that threshold now with finding habitable planets,” said Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution, a co-author of the study that was funded by National Science Foundation and NASA.
Dr Vogt agreed: “The number of systems with potentially habitable planets is probably on the order of 10 or 20%, and when you multiply that by the hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way, that’s a large number,” he said.
“There could be tens of billions of these systems in our galaxy.”
Gliese 581g is in the constellation of Libra. While Earth takes 365 days to orbit our star, the sun, Gliese 581g orbits its star in 37 days.