A planet has been found that is not too hot and not too cold. Could it be just right?
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In the fictional Star Trek terminology, a Minshara, or “M” Class planet refers to a planet with sufficient nitrogen, oxygen, and liquid water necessary for carbon-based life to exist. The Five Year Mission of the Original Series and the Continuing Mission of the Next Generation were to seek out new life and new civilizations. The fictional Enterprise crews came across M Class planets with indigenous sentient life forms several times in each season.
In the real universe, about 500 planets have been discovered, but so far each one has been either too hot or too cold. No new life or new civilizations have been spotted just yet.
A planet with a habitable zone (HZ) is known as a Goldilocks planet – one that is just right to potentially be inhabitable by life forms as we know them.
Astronomers have now discovered the possible existence of such a planet orbiting the red star Gliese 581. The planet, which has also been designated Gliese 581, is the right distance away from the star that the surface temperatures would allow liquid water to exist on its surface.
Most of us would not find the climate of Gliese 581 very comfortable. This planet does not rotate on an axis as does Earth, so one side of the planet would have a temperature suitable for polar bears, and the other side would be more suited for a lizard. It is not known if there is a zone between the two sides where humans would be comfortable.
The orbit is of Gliese 581 is closer to its sun than that of Earth, making for a 37 day year. The planet is about three times the mass of Earth, so its gravity would make us feel a bit heavier than our gravity. I think that for a vacation spot, a planet with less gravity would be a bit more desirable.
Gliese 581 is only 20 light years from Earth, but I wouldn’t plan on booking a tour any time soon. With space travel technology that exists today, it would take 250 years to get to this new planet.