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March 20, 2011

Gliese 581g - Can We Expect Life?

Astronomers have recently discovered an Earth-like planet about 20 light years away from planet Earth. Research supports that Gliese 581g has many qualities that can make it habitable.

According to the article, the planet is where "temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold to make the existence of life (as we know it) impossible. The planet has an atmosphere, gravity and temperatures that are cold, but not so cold as to make it uninhabitable."

In the video included with the article, Steven Vogt explains that with present-day technology, we could send a probe to Gliese 581g to gather more information, but it would probably be another 200 years before any of that information got back to us.

With this in mind, we have to consider whether or not it is worth spending millions of dollars on a probe to gather information that won't get within our own lifespans. We also have to figure out what the likelihood is that this planet may contain life, be it microbial or more evolved. As we read Chapter 4, "The Habitability of Earth" in our textbook, it will be interesting to take what we learn about what makes a planet sustainable for life, and how that compares to the features offered on Gliese 581g.


Posted by alymro at March 20, 2011 09:54 AM


How interesting. I am always excited to hear when there is potential life elsewhere in the universe. It seems that this planet has the qualities that would allow for life based on our understanding of what necessitates life. But I find it highly possible that there are some conditions that would allow for life that we are currently unaware of. I'll be interested to see if we decide to invest the money to investigate this planet further.

Posted by: hartadam at March 20, 2011 07:52 PM

This is an interesting argument about whether to further our understanding of the universe or to save the money. I also think that a bit more research might be needed to see if we should actually send a probe. All we know is that this new planet could be very similar to Earth, but all terrestrial planets seemed to have started that very same way. I am for sending out a probe, but if it takes 200 years to get the information back, I believe it might be in the best interest to wait for better technology.

Posted by: nelalam at March 22, 2011 08:05 PM

Another great case of scientific debate on an important discovery. Will it hold up to further scientific scrutiny? Currently, there are more votes against the discovery than there are for the discovery:

Finding Earth-like planets around other stars is really, really hard.

Posted by: christoq at April 21, 2011 12:30 PM

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