Monday, June 13, 2011

Red dwarf star: Distant rocky planet 'could be future human home' | MNN |

Artist's conception of the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system
Image: NIF
PARIS — A rocky world orbiting a nearby star has been confirmed as the first planet outside our solar system to meet key requirements for sustaining life, scientists said on Monday. While Gliese 581d shows potential, it would take around 300,000 years to get there with current space traveling technology. Modelling of planet Gliese 581d shows it has the potential to be warm and wet enough to nurture Earth-like life, they said.

It orbits a red dwarf star called Gliese 581, located around 20 light years from Earth, which makes it one of our closest neighbours. Gliese 581d orbits on the outer fringes of the star's "Goldilocks zone", where it is not so hot that water boils away, nor so cold that water is perpetually frozen. Instead, the temperature is just right for water to exist in liquid form. "With a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere — a likely scenario on such a large planet — the climate of Gliese 581d is not only stable against collapse but warm enough to have oceans, clouds and rainfall," France'sNational Centre for Scientific Research said in a press release.


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