The possibility of finding life on another planet just got a shot in the arm. Astronomers at the University of California have discovered a new planet which is considered to be in the middle of the Habitable Zone of its parent star, a discovery which has raised the possibility of finding life on another planet. Researchers found the planet while conducting the Lick-Carnegie exoplanet survey of Gliese 581, a red dwarf. The planet, named ‘ Gliese 581 g’, is approximately 20 light years away from Earth and is hypothesised to have a generally rocky landscape with enough gravitational pull to accumulate an atmosphere.
Steven Vogt of the University of California stated that Gliese 581g potentially has a gravitational pull similar to that of Earth, which would allow humans to walk around upright on its surface although human inhabitation of the planet is in no foreseeable future. Vogt observed that there is a significant possibility that life exists on Gliese 581 g. “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 per cent,” Vogt said. Only lichen, bacteria and other micro-organisms are expected to exist on the planet.
Gliese 581 g is thought to have a temperature range from extremely hot to freezing cold depending on the side with respect to its star. The average temperature is expected to range from ?31 to ?12 degrees Celsius. Prior to this discovery, two other planets were discovered in the low or “cold” end and the high or “hot” end of the ‘Habitable Zone’, respectively, orbiting the same star. The planet is tidal locked – one side of the planet is always facing it’s sun while the other faces away. meaning that it would be permanently light on one half and permanently dark on the other half of its surface.Tidal locking also means the planet would have no axial tilt and therefore no seasonality in a conventional sense.
For fans of Star Trek, you know what that means don’t you! We have discovered Remus! That means that her sister planet Romulus and the Romulans are nearby. Quick, alert the Enterprise before they attack us.