Astronomers discover Earth-like planet

Astronomers have discovered the most earth-like planet outside our own Solar System. This new extra-solar planet, named GL581c, is just 50 percent larger than Earth, making it highly likely to have a rocky surface. More importantly, however, is that the new world is orbiting its parent star every 13 days, and is just the right distance for water to exist in liquid form within its atmosphere. Liquid water is thought to be one of the three most important ingredients for the existence life.

New planet GL581c
Artists impression of the newly discovered Earth-like planet GL581c - © ESO

We now know of well over 200 extra-solar planets, the vast majority of which are thought to be gas-giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn. As it happens, this parent star, Gliese 581, is thought to have at least two other planets. The first is a Neptune-like planet orbiting in a very close 5-day orbit, whilst the second is about twice the size of Earth, but occupies a cooler 84-day orbit where water would be in its frozen form - ice. Compare these periods to Mercury's orbit of 88 days.

Note that the distance of the habitable zone (where temperatures are between 0-100 degrees celsius) is very dependent on the type of star. In our own Solar System, the Sun's habitable zone (HZ) lies way out at Earth's 365 day orbit, whereas for the much cooler Gliese 581, the HZ is around 10 times closer.

If you want to learn more about the GL581c, then please follow this link.