Thursday, September 30, 2010

We're In The Goldilocks zone

I thought this was an interesting article. I shortened it up for you to read below.

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer – Wed Sep 29, 7:19 pm ET

Astronomers say they have for the first time spotted a planet beyond our own in what is called the Goldilocks zone for life: Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.

"This is the first one I'm truly excited about," said Penn State University's Jim Kasting. He said this planet is a "pretty prime candidate" for harboring life.

But there are still many unanswered questions about this strange planet. It's so close to its version of the sun that it orbits every 37 days. And it doesn't rotate much, so one side is almost always bright, the other dark.

Temperatures can be as hot as 160 degrees or as frigid as 25 degrees below zero, but in between — in the land of constant sunrise — it would be "shirt-sleeve weather".

Co-discoverer Steven Vogt, of the University of California at Santa Cruz, believes "that chances for life on this planet are 100 percent."

The star, Gliese 581, can't be seen without a telescope from Earth, Vogt said. But if you were standing on this new planet, you could easily see our sun.

The low-energy dwarf star will live on for billions of years, much longer than our sun, he said. And that just increases the likelihood of life developing on the planet, the discoverers said.

"It's pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions," Vogt said.

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