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Earthlike Planet Found, May Have Liquid Oceans

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A Planet known as Gliese 581d, a planet orbiting in the Gliese 581 star system has a lot more in common with Earth than astronomers first thought.

Astronomer Michel Mayor from Geneva University in Switzerland, announced that new measurements of the planets orbit place it firmly in a region where conditions would be right for liquid water and perhaps life as we know it.

The planet was first discovered in 2007 and was thought to be too far away from its host star which would make it too cold for liquid water, however, Mayor and his colleagues now show that the extra solar planet orbits its host star in approximately 66.8 which is just inside the habitable zone.

Gliese 581, a red dwarf star in the constellation Libra, lies around 20.5 light-years from Earth making it one of our nearest neighbors.

The team believes that Gliese 581d is not very likely to be made of rocks alone, they speculate that it may have a rocky core, encased in an icy layer, with a liquid ocean at the surface and an atmosphere. Given this information, its possible that if life really does exist somewhere in the universe other than Earth, then within the next 10 to 15 years we may see the first signs of life, via spectroscopic signals from exoplanets.

Unfortunately even with 581d being so close it would take about 20 years to get there if we could travel at the speed of light. With our current speed, trying to get to 581d would take about 535,000 years, if I did the math correctly.

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