Astronomers find first habitable Earth-like planet

Earth-like planetScientists have found the first Earth-like planet outside of our solar system.

The new planet is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive. The new “super-Earth” is called Gliese 581 C, after its star, Gliese 581, a diminutive red dwarf star located 20.5 light-years away that is about one-third as massive as the Sun.

Gliese 581 C is the smallest extrasolar planet, or “exoplanet,” discovered to date. It is located about 15 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun; one year on the planet is equal to 13 Earth days. Because red dwarfs, also known as M dwarfs, are about 50 times dimmer than the Sun and much cooler, their planets can orbit much closer to them while still remaining within their habitable zones, the spherical region around a star within which a planet’s temperature can sustain liquid water on its surface.

Computer models predict Gliese 581 C is either a rocky planet like Earth or a waterworld covered entirely by oceans with a mean temperature of between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius [32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit].

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Update: A graphic which compares the size of Earth and Gliese from BBC. Video from YouTube.

Comparison of the size of Earth and Gliese

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