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Earth-sized Exoplanet Discovered September 30, 2010

Posted by Skippy in Space.
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Astronomers have discovered a planet with about three times Earth’s mass and it is in the “goldilocks zone” of its parent star. From Universe Today:

An enticing new extrasolar planet found using the Keck Observatory in Hawaii is just three times the mass of Earth and it orbits the parent star squarely in the middle of the star’s “Goldilocks zone,” a potential habitable region where liquid water could exist on the planet‘s surface. If confirmed, this would be the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered and the first strong case for a potentially habitable one. The discoverers also say this finding could mean our galaxy may be teeming with prospective habitable planets.

“Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet,” said Steven Vogt from UC Santa Cruz. “The fact that we were able to detect this planet so quickly and so nearby tells us that planets like this must be really common.”

Awesome! Of course, the only problems are:
* This planet is 20 light-years away.
* This planet is tidally locked, meaning that one side of the planet faces the red dwarf Gliese 581 and the other side remains in darkness. The habitable zone is probably in the planet’s terminator.
* We don’t really know what the planet’s atmosphere is composed of.

Let’s just hope there aren’t aliens living there who might want to eat humans for dinner.

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