After searching the heavens for more than a decade, on Wednesday Sept. 29 astronomers Steven Vogt and Paul Butler announced the discovery of the most earth-like planet ever found orbiting a star 120 trillion miles away.
Located in the Libra constellation, the star Gliese 581 is not visible to the naked eye. The red dwarf star is significantly less luminous, and smaller than our own sun. Gliese 581 has a total of four planets. Now with the meticulous observations made by Vogt and Butler, two new planets have been discovered.
One of these planets falls squarely in the middle of what is referred to as “the goldilocks zone.” The ideal location for a planet to be where the distance from its star is just right for producing temperatures ideal for containing liquid water and sustaining life.
Vogt told the Los Angeles Times, he believes “that chances for life on this planet are 100 percent.”
This newly discovered planet, however similar it may appear at first is not. And that fact alone does not discourage but rather excites and presses on the imagination. The Planet has three times the mass of earth, has a year cycle of 36.6 days and is, as Vogt put it, “tidily locked” to its star like the moon is to earth. One side of the planet always faces the sun while the other side faces outward into the immensity of the cosmos and remains forever dark. The temperature on the side of everlasting sun is believed to be at around 160 degrees Fahrenheit while on the side of perpetual darkness the temperature is believed to be at around 25 degrees below. But where the day and night meet, where the sun is always setting, you can find temperatures like those of summer evenings. And the fascinating thing is that because the planet has no rotation the climate remains stable and constant wherever you happen to be.
So if there is life on this planet, it will be fantastic, with millions perhaps billions of years of evolution occurring with possible life adapting to the specific climates and conditions of its choosing.
“On the treasure map of the universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X,” Delfosse said to MSNBC.
Scientists are riding the crest of a wave that is just about to spill over the brim into a world of unimaginable discoveries. Astronomers like Vogt and Butler are now confident that the amount of earth like planets within our own galaxy is great. They for see many more planets like earth being discovered within five to ten years and with technology advancing every day an increase and more precise understanding of our existence relative to the universe. It could be possible and is actually very likely that we have cosmic neighbors, a thought unsettling to some and comforting to others but to almost all, completely riveting.