Scientists ID 'Habitable' Exoplanet

New model suggests Gliese 581D a likely candidate for life

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 18, 2011 5:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – A new computer climate model has turned up the strongest evidence yet that a planet in the Gliese system is capable of sustaining life, the Telegraph reports. Researchers believe Gliese 581d, which orbits a red dwarf 20 light years away, not only exists in the "Goldilocks zone" where water can be present in liquid form, but is big enough to have a stable carbon dioxide atmosphere and "warm enough to have oceans, clouds, and rainfall," according to France's National Centre for Scientific Research.

Similar life-sustaining claims have been made for other planets in the Gliese system, but the latest research uses a model better able to simulate possible climates, Popular Science notes. Earth-like life may exist on the planet, but it probably wouldn't be a pleasant place for Earthlings: Researchers believe its surface is shrouded in "a perpetual murky red twilight," its atmosphere is toxic, and its surface gravity is around double that of Earth.

This artistic illustration released by the European Southern Observatory shows planets orbiting the red dwarf star, Gliese 581.
This artistic illustration released by the European Southern Observatory shows planets orbiting the red dwarf star, Gliese 581.   (AP Photo/European Southern Observatory)
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