Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Earth II: Electric Boogaloo

Screw you Peter Ward, the "Rare-Earth Hypothesis" is looking more and more like a great big pile of steaming crap. Now that Gliese 581g is on the map, it seems highly likely that plenty of earth-like planets are populating the heavens.
While the Kepler team is suffering from severe eye strain trying to analyze all their data, the Kasting brothers have utterly pwned those exoplanet hunting noobs by finding the first earth-like planet in a star's goldilocks zone. Even better, the star is relatively close by, only 20 light years (basically next door). And it is a red dwarf, the most common type of star in the galaxy, with 5 other known planets that all orbit in roughly circular shapes. No crazy elliptical orbits gumming up the works, or hot jupiters laying the smack down on other planet formation. And guess what, another one of those five planets, Gliese 581d is also within the habitable zone.
Gliese 581g is a few times bigger than earth, but almost certainly made of rock. It also sits in the dead center of its parent stars habitable zone, and without an atmospheric greenhouse effect factored in its average temperature is around -10C. Of course, earth's average temp is about the same without an atmosphere, so Gliese 581g could conceivably be sunny and tropical, with 5 star resorts, and beautiful beach condos at low prices.
Gliese 581d is much larger, and is probably more like Uranus or Neptune, but still has the possibility of holding liquid water, though the surfing is most likely not as good as its sister planets.
Let's not understate how much ass this discovery kicks. Gliese 581 is the 117th closest star to earth. So out of 117 stars we have at least 2 confirmed earth like planets, earth being 1. This is a small sample with a large return rate, astronomically speaking. We have also only studied a few of these stars in any detail, about 9 of them. So let's get cracking! I am looking at you Kepler. Oh, and before anyone else asks, yes I did claim the mining rights, and no I do not tolerate claim jumpers. I will defend my space property with planetary rail guns, as is my right as an American. It is in the Constitution people!

An artist's conception shows the inner four planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host star.

Lynette Cook

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