Scientists have discovered Gliese 581g, a neighboring planet that appears to have all the necessary ingredients to support both water and carbon-based life forms.
"My own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent," said Steven Vogt, a UC Santa Cruz astrophysicist at a news conference today. "I have almost no doubt about it."
The planet is three-to-four times larger than the Earth, which would mean the pull of gravity on its surface is significantly greater. But it is the right distance from its sun to sustain life, and to harbor bodies of water.
The planet rotates on its axis very slowly, leaving one side in perpetual darkness and the other baking in its sun. But the intermediate areas, between light and dark, have the potential for harboring life, said Vogt.
"Any emerging life forms would have a wide range of stable climates to choose from and to evolve around, depending on their longitude," said Vogt.
In celestial terms, Gliese 581g, which is termed a "Goldilocks Planet," being neither too hot nor too cold to harbor life, is relatively close to Earth. But convential rocket technology would require a trip of some thousands of years.
Vogt said that future technology that might allow humans to travel at one-tenth the speed of light would allow a trip to the planet that would take 200 years.
Its relative proximity to Earth is leading some scientists to hypothesize that there are many other "Goldilocks Planets" in the galaxy that could support life.
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