An Earth-size planet has been spotted orbiting a nearby star at a distance that would makes it not too hot and not too cold -- comfortable enough for life to exist, researchers announced Wednesday.
If confirmed, the exoplanet, named Gliese 581g, would be the first Earth-like world found residing in a star's habitable zone -- a region where a planet's temperature could sustain liquid water on its surface.[Illustration of planet Gliese 581g.]
And the planet's discoverers are optimistic about the prospects for finding life there.
"Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent," said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a press briefing today.
"I have almost no doubt about it."
His colleague, Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, in Washington, D.C., wasn't willing to put a number on the odds of life, though he admitted he's optimistic.
"It's both an incremental and monumental discovery," Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told SPACE.com. Incremental because the method used to find Gliese 581g already has found several planets (all super-Earths, more massive than our own world) outside their stars' habitable zone, along with non-Earth-like planets within the habitable zone.
"It really is monumental if you accept this as the first Earth-like planet ever found in the star's habitable zone," said Seager, who was not directly involved in the discovery.
Read the entire article: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/09/29/odds-life-newfound-earth-size-planet-percent-astronomer-say/