Friday, 12 November 2010

Mike's Wonder

Okay, I know this happened a couple of weeks ago now, but have you heard about that new planet? Yeah, scientists have found a new planet. You don’t care? Well this one’s special.

^ Artist’s conception of Gliese 581G
‘Gliese 581G’ (unimaginatively named after its star, ‘Gliese 581’) is right in the middle of its star’s ‘Goldilocks zone’.  The Goldilocks zone is the area around a star that isn’t too close (and too warm) or too far away from it (and too cold); it’s the place which is juuuust right. This means that Gliese 581G is the right distance from its star to have water and support life.  Also, it’s three or four times the size of Earth meaning that it has enough gravity to have an atmosphere, but not enough to crush people who might go there.

However, it takes the planet as long to spin around as it does for it to go around its star. This means that on one side it’s always daytime and incredibly hot. The other side is permanently dark and freezing. Therefore, unfortunately, only the bit of the planet in the middle of the light and dark bits would be able to support life. But still, that’s better than nothing. Another thing is that it’s twenty light years away (about 120 trillion miles) which isn’t far compared to the rest of space, but it would take people a while to get there with today’s technology.

Still don’t care? Okay, it’s not drastically important right now I suppose. But surely finding planets that people might be able to live on is important isn’t it? We’re not exactly being too kind to the one we live on with all of the polluting we do, so we might have to move in a few hundred years. And what if a massive disaster happens that takes out Earth? Wouldn't it be better to have a backup human civilisation somewhere else? Not really that interested? Fair enough.

Mike James

1 comment:

  1. I was very interested in that. I love kind of popular science things. Nice work.