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

(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.