Thursday, September 30, 2010

Woohoo! Road trip!

A cool new headline in the old feed reader this morning read: US scientists find potentially habitable planet near Earth".

It turns out that planet Gliese 581g (orbiting the Red Dwarf star Gliese 581 — only 20 light years away) may have areas that would support human life.
The planet… is orbiting in the middle of the "habitable zone" of the red dwarf star Gliese 581, which means it could have water on its surface.

Liquid water and an atmosphere are necessary for a planet to possibly sustain life, even if it might not be a great place to live, the scientists said.

The planet… has a mass three to four times that of Earth and an orbital period of just under 37 days. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet and has enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere…
Given the close proximity of Gliese 581g to Earth, it seems a road trip is definitely in order. But before you pack your bags, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind.

First, scientists say the planet is "tidally locked" to it's star, meaning it's always daytime on one side and always night on the other. The planet is theoretically habitable in the "twilight zone" where it's perpetually evening (or morning, depending on your perspective).

This isn't terrible, given that you potentially would have a nice romantic sunset all day long. Unfortunately in that habitable area, temperatures are thought to range from -24 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit — much like North Dakota.

The other hitch is that the planet is three to four times more massive that Earth. This is good, since it means that it can hold an atmosphere, which is nice if you plan on breathing.

But you'd better be in some pretty good physical shape by the time you get there. If you weigh in at a svelte 180 pounds on Earth, you'll have to lug around a 720 pound body on Gliese 581g. And that Quarter Pounder with Cheese that you packed for a snack just became a One Pounder with cheese.

Still, it may be cold, rocky, and dark, and it may make your butt look fat in those jeans, but I bet Gliese 581g is still ten times nicer than Uranus.

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  1. Actually, although the mass is larger than earth, so is the circumference of the planet, this means that the density of the planet, and therefore surface gravity is only about 1.1 to 1.7 of that on Earth. (Source)


  2. Hello emawkc, you have a very interesting blog, i will visit ur blog very often, hope u go for this website to increase visitor.Happy Blogging!!!

  3. Thanks for the correction, R.Sherman. I tend not to let science get in the way of a good Uranus joke.


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