Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gliese 581g

Just 20 light years away, there's a planet that might sustain life. It's called Gliese 581g, and scientists say that it orbits in the so-called "goldilocks zone," the range of distance from a star that's neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water and thus, the possibility of life.

There are a few caveats. Apparently the planet is tidally locked, with one side forever facing its star, the other eternally turned away, making one side very hot and the other very cold. But at the terminator between light and darkness, milder temperatures could allow for the evolution of extraterrestrial life.

News like this makes me so grateful to be living in this era of exploration and discovery. Just imagine what we'll learn fifty years from now, when telescopes and other observation instruments are even more powerful, when probes can fly farther, faster, and with better equipment. One of my greatest hopes is to still be around when scientists discover the first life beyond our world; whether they find microbes or intelligent beings, that knowledge will utterly change the world, and open up vast new horizons.

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