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Gliese 581 vs. Earth – Home Sweet Home?

September 30, 2010

Gliese 581 vs. Earth – Home Sweet Home?

Okay, so it’s a little early in the process to believe that we will all be slipping on space boots and rocketing off to the planet beyond, but it something to prepare for as scientist get closer and closer to learning how to colonize other planets.

The star known as Gliese 581 appears to be utterly unremarkable in just about every way you can imagine. Spotted at 20 light years away, it's relatively nearby, but not close enough to set any records. But Gliese 581 does have one distinction - and that's enough to make it the focus of intense scientific attention. At last count, astronomers had identified more than 400 planets orbiting stars beyond the Sun, and Gliese 581 was host to no fewer than four of them - the most populous solar system we know of, aside than our own. That alone would make the star intriguing. But on Wednesday, a team of astronomers announced they'd found two more planets circling the star, bringing the total to six.

The good news for those of us that might not be ready to take on the title of alien is that the new planet is only about three or four times as massive as our home world. I guess this means a few of us will have to stay behind to clean up this one, right? It is thought to have a solid surface just like Earth, but I doubt they’ve tested the ability to grow your garden in a box outside your sleeping pod yet.

The powers at be have ruled Gliese 581 a habitable zone, orbiting at just the right distance from the star to let water remain liquid rather than freezing solid or boiling away. As far as we know, that's a minimum requirement for the presence of life. Still thoughts of the three bears pop into my mind.

Do you think New York will include Space Suits to their next Fall Line?

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