Scientists from the European Southern Observatory working in Chile have found a new planet outside our solar system that is more like Earth than any other known planet. Although the new planet is relatively close to us in astronomical terms — less than 200 trillion kilometers (200,000,000,000,000) away — astronomers need much more information before they can predict whether it harbors life.
“Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth’s radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky — like our Earth — or covered with oceans,” he said in the statement.
It’s the second planet the astronomers have detected around the red dwarf star, the ESO said. The first one, with a mass of 15 Earth-masses, or about the size of Neptune, orbits the star every 5.4 days and was discovered two years ago. The scientists also found less conclusive evidence of a third planet about the mass of eight Earths orbiting the star.
Like Earth, the new planet “Gliese 581c” orbits its sun in “the habitable zone.” The estimated surface temperature is between minus 3 and 40 degrees celsius — neither too cold nor too hot for life as we know it. This means there could be liquid water on the planet’s surface.
“At the distance of the planet from the star, we expect water to be present on the surface of the planet. And when you speak about water, you may speak about life.”This Presence of Water is the Key Factor of life.
The new planet, about 50 % larger in diameter than Earth, is in the constellation Libra. Its sun is a red dwarf star — much smaller, dimmer and cooler than our sun. The planet is much closer to its sun than Earth is to ours, completing one orbit every 13 days.