Astronomers Find Two Planets More Similar To Earth

April 22, 2009

(ChattahBox) — As the technology has advanced astronomers have found many planets something near 350 outside our solar system but not the kind that could support like.  With refinements astronomers have identified two planets that are the most similar to Earth so far, both of which orbit the same star a dwarf 20, 20 light-years from Earth, called Gliese 581. The larger of the two orbits in the ‘habitable zone,’ and could have oceans.

The most recently discovered small planet called Gliese 581 e, was revealed at a news conference Tuesday at the University of Hertfordshire during the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science. The planet is probably rocky like the Earth but is so close to Gliese 581, it is blisteringly hot, has an estimated mass equal to 1.9 Earths and orbits its sun every 3.15 days. It is the fourth discovered circling Gliese 581 by a team of astronomers working with the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla, Chile. They identified the planets by detecting and analyzing slight wobbles in the star’s path as the planets orbit it.

The other three planets in the Gliese system have masses of 16, five and seven Earths. The one with a mass of seven Earths, called Gliese 581 d, could be the most exciting. It was initially thought to have an orbit, which would put it just on the outer edge of the habitable zone.

Recent refinements of the data, however, show that it has an orbit falls in the hailed as a ”Goldilocks” planet, where liquid water and thus life might be possible. It probably formed as a combination of ice and rock farther out in the Gliese system and then migrated inward, according to various planetary formation models, and melted.


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