FRIDAY, 4 MAY 2007The discovery of a planet which shares many of the characteristics of Earth has got many scientists excited. The prerequisite to life is the presence of running water, and Gliese 581 orbits its sun within the critical distance for this to be possible.
Gliese lies 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra, is over three times the size of the Earth and expected to be rocky or covered in oceans. With a temperature range of between zero and forty degrees centigrade the search is on to discover signs of extra-terrestrial life. There were no details about the atmospheric characteristics but this is expected to be probed in future observations.
Of all the planets that have been observed so far, "this is the one that looks as thought it might have the right ingredients for life" according to Alison Boyle, the curator of astronomy at London's Science Museum.
The discovery was made using the Eso 3.6 Telescope in Chile and was reported in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Written by Christopher Adriaanse