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New "Earth" found in space

Published by Rob on Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:16 pm
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Astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface.
The planet orbits the faint star Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra.

We have estimated that the mean temperature of this ’super-Earth’ lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid,” explained Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, lead author of the scientific paper reporting the result.

“Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth’s radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky – like our Earth – or covered with oceans.”

Xavier Delfosse, a member of the team from Grenoble University, added: “Liquid water is critical to life as we know

Indeed, it is 14 times closer to its star than the Earth is to our Sun.

However, given that the host star is smaller and colder than the Sun – and thus less luminous – the planet nevertheless lies in the “habitable zone”, the region around a star where water could be liquid.

Gliese 581 was identified at the European Southern Observatory (Eso) facility at La Silla in the Atacama Desert.

Commenting on the discovery, Alison Boyle, the curator of astronomy at London’s Science Museum, said: “Of all the planets we’ve found around other stars, this is the one that looks as though it might have the right ingredients for life

Planet Facts:
Mass: Five times Earth’s mass
Orbit: 13 days
Temperature: 0C – 40C
Distance: 20.5 light years
Constellation: Libra
Scientists made the discovery using the Eso 3.6m Telescope in Chile.

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