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New planet, new possibilities

A new planet may be able to hold human lifeforms


Staff Writer

  New planets are not usually found very often, especially ones that might be habitable. A new planet called Gliese 581d is located on the outer part of the Habitable Zone or “Goldilocks zone”. It was discovered in 2010 and was announced that it may be habitable for all kinds of life.

   The “Goldilocks zone” refers to Earth-like planets that are a certain distance from a star and have the right conditions to maintain life. The name comes from the story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, where Goldilocks always chooses the item that is “just right”.

   Different types of liquids could be sustained inside of the environment. Furthermore, the atmosphere keeps the planet warm enough to help everything remain stable.

    The search is being carried out both from telescopes on the ground and from space. The US Space Kepler Telescopes, launched in 2009, should release its data this year about the planet. From the data gathered, scientists have determined that the planet is Neptune-sized. NASA is hoping that their telescope will give them more information on the planet.

   “With future generations of telescopes we could search for life directly on the planet,” says Robin Wordsworth, Institute Pierre Simon Laplace.

  New telescopes are being created for the purpose of finding life on Gliese 581d. Scientists are hoping for the best, and that there might be some bacteria to prove that organisms can thrive.

   Still, while some scientists believe that the planet may be real, it might not be able to support humans. French researchers have run computer simulations, concluding that the planet is likely to contain large amounts of carbon dioxide. They theorize that the planet can only hold water and a huge downpour of rain. They also say that its denser air and dim red light from its host star would be toxic to humans and create a murky environment to live in.

   Moreover, the existence of the planet is still being questioned by skeptics. Gliese 581d’s predecessor, Gliese 581c, was discovered in 2007. Later in the discovery, researchers realized that the planet is too close to its star, and the temperature would be very hazardous. After almost giving up hope for a habitable planet, researchers discovered Gliese 581 d. Since scientists discovered complications with the first planet, some assume that there will be some kind of problem with Gliese 581d.

   Some researchers hope that this planet will lead to the discovery of other habitable planets; others think that there must be something wrong with Gliese 581d. Either way, all are waiting for the information from the telescopes that could make or break their theories.

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