Astronomers at UC Santa Cruz and the Carnegie Institution of Washington have discovered the first exoplanet that could sustain human life. The planet orbits red dwarf star Gliese 581 (pronounced “GLEE-zuh”) every 37 days, and is creatively named Gliese 581g. I think we should rename it Steve.
Gliese 581g Steve is just 20 light years from Earth. Considering our galaxy is about 100,000 light years across, finding a habitable planet so close suggests there are many more where that came from. As for this planet, it’s tidally locked, meaning the same side always faces its sun, and it has a mass at least three times that of Earth (meaning it’s likely a rocky planet with enough gravity to have an atmosphere). The average temperature on the surface is estimated to be similar to a summer day in Antarctica, with a huge difference between the sunny side and the dark side of the tidally locked planet. Along the edges of the sunny side of the planet, where it’s just starting to get dark, the temperature may be right for liquid water to exist. This doesn’t mean there actually is water on the planet. So far, we don’t know if the planet even has an atmosphere, and, as Sara Seager at MIT told the NYTimes, if the atmosphere were all carbon dioxide, for example, it would be too hot. So don’t book your tickets just yet.
Also interesting to note is that a “laserlike” signal was detected in this solar system back in 2008. Most importantly, we need to bomb this planet immediately, just to show the aliens we mean business.