ESO Announces Lightest Planet Ever Found Near Possibly Habitable Planet
European scientists announced yesterday that they have determined the plant Gliese 581d may be habitable. At a minimum, its orbit lies within the "habitable zone," a band at a distance from the planet's sun in which the planet is warm enough to support life, but not too warm. In fact, scientists on the team that made the discovery went so far as to speculate that the planet may have a "large and deep" ocean.
Gliese 581d is just a short 20 year hop away (once we master that travel at the speed of light thing). And by the theory of time dilation, those who chose to make the leap would barely age during the trip. Of course, such news on an eco-blog can only lead to one obvious question:Extraterrestrial Migration: Earth Evolution Plan C
Should humans develop options for evacuating our planet if the predictions of scientists are true? If failure to change our current lifestyles will lead to making this plant uninhabitable, or capable of supporting only a severely reduced population of humans, do we need a plan C? (Plan B being to get our act in order and not destroy this beautiful blue rock we live on, naturally.)
Exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor is credited with finding the "holy grail" of planet research: an earth-like planet outside of our solar system. They actually found the planet Gliese 581e, which is the lightest planet ever found, at approximately 1.9 times the mass of earth. But the research also led to the conclusion that the neighboring planet Gliese 6581d remains completely in the habitable band during its entire orbit.
The scientific team that discovered Gliese 581e and confirmed Gliese 581d's orbit used four years worth of readings from the HARPS spectrograph attached to the 3.6-metre ESO telescope at the La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile. ESO is the acronym for the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere.
This discovery further demonstrates that the universe does create small earth-like planets, increasing the probability that there are lots of these planets out there, waiting to be found. The breakthrough represents improvements in techniques for examining deep space and locating similar planets. So our ancestors may need a travel agent to sort through all the options for a potential extraterrestrial migration.
But Let's Get Serious
Space travel is an exciting dream. Maybe even a reason for children to have hope again. But for the adults amongst us, it is unlikely that mankind will colonize space in our lifetimes. We have another mission: mission to planet Earth. Let's use the wonder of the possibilities of life as a spur to save the magnificent chunk of rock we evolved on.