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New Earth Detected Around Gliese 581

Gliese 581 C is the first Earth-like planet found outside our solar system that appears to have liquid water and therefore a climate that could support life as we know it.


(Artist's concept of planets around Gliese 581)

Gliese 581 C is the smallest extrasolar planet yet discovered; it is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive. It's sun is Gliese 581, a small red dwarf located a mere 20.5 light-years away.

Study leader Stephane Udry, of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, stated “We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius [32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit], and water would thus be liquid.”

Scientists discovered the new world using the HARP instrument on the European Southern Observatory 3.6 meter telescope in La Sille, Chile. They employed the so-called radial velocity, or “wobble,” technique, in which the size and mass of a planet are determined based on small perturbations it induces in its parent star’s orbit via gravity.

Science fiction writers have posited the existence of extrasolar Earth-like planets for at least seventy-five years. Thanks to a lot of hard work by generations of scientists, it's possible that this collective wish by writers has been proven true.

Read more at Space.com.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/25/2007)

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