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Earth-like planet 581 G discovered
People have wondered for thousands of years if there's life on other planets. Now astronomers have discovered the first planet that's a lot like Earth.
Is there anybody out there?
For the last eleven years - astronomers have been examining data from the star Gliese 581, which is about 20 light years away from us in the constellation of Libra, the scales.
Falkner Planetarium Manager Rick Greenwald said, “When a planet orbits around a star, it causes the star to wobble back and forth a little bit. We can study that wobble, and then we can detect how many planets are around a star, the masses of those planets by watching that wobble, but it takes a long time to do that.”
Greenawald says Gliese 581 has six planets, but the one that was just discovered is in what's called the Goldilocks Zone - it's not too far away from the star, so it's not too cold.
And not too close, so it's not too hot.
In other words, it's 'just right' - which means that chances are good there may be liquid water - possibly an atmosphere - and just maybe, somebody's home.
Greenawald said, “Now we're finding these planets like the Earth, and it's proving what astronomers have felt for a long time, is that solar systems with planetary systems exist all over out there. So that then leads to the possibility of life existing out there.”
Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star about a third of the size of our sun but it puts out only about one percent of our sun's light.
The planet just discovered has been labeled 581 G and circles its sun in only 37 days.