May 20th, 2011 09:51 EST
Newly Discovered Exoplanet Found to Have the Same Earth Like Climate and Atmosphere
I remember back in the 1970s there was always talk in the world of science of what planet if any we could we relocate to if we ever destroyed our planet (Earth) to the point of it being uninhabitable to live on. We were always studying the effects that cars exhaust, factories spewing chemicals in the air and businesses polluting waterways had on our environment and ecosystems.
Back then and especially growing up in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley we used to have smog so thick it would probably be like walking through a big mound of whip cream, not that I ever have done that but the smog was so thick you could easily develop respiratory problems as easy has catching the common cold.
Of course that was before we had all the monitoring devices and laws regulating exhaust coming from your car and laws regulating chemicals that factories and businesses used to just let flow freely into our atmosphere.
We have long since then been able to finally control these planet killers but the damage is still done and not reversible. Back in the 1970s we once had fun in school studying what planet we could move to if we ever had to. Of course back then Scientists didn`t have the technology they have today to study planets inside and outside of our solar system but they came up with some funny explanations of what planets could support life on them when it came to the same atmospheric conditions and climate as Earth. I remember there were not too many planets that could support us that we knew about back then but now scientists continue to search planets in and out of our solar system or in what they call the Habitable Zone.
There were recently three exoplanets (an exoplanet is a planet that is outside our solar system) discovered by scientists that fit the bill around what is known as the red dwarf Gliese 581, a star that is closest to the sun in our galaxy with the same atmospheric and climate conditions close to ours.
Two out of the three planets were eliminated but the third planet called Gliese 581d is being considered as the one planet that can support our life on it and has the same qualities as Earth when it comes to atmospheric conditions.
The planets were discovered by a team of scientists from the Institute Pierre Simon Laplace (CNRS, UPMC, ENS Paris, Ecole Polytechnic) in Paris, France. With this discovery of the possible next Earth, scientists are looking closer at it and are seeing if the main factor of a planet having the same qualities as Earth is there in the newly discovered Exoplanet. One of the elements scientists look at is a rocky planet that is around a lot of stars and is not in a zone that is neither too hot nor too cold to support life.
Over the last few years, scientists have discovered a few planets in and around the habitable zone and Gliese 581d that may have been potential candidates as planets we could live on but with further study they found those planets to have many problems with them that could not support our life form.
Gliese 581 d seems to be it and has a rocky surface and has seven times the mass that planet Earth has and is at this point being estimated of being twice has large has Earth. At first when planet Gliese 581 d was discovered it seemed to possibly be a poor candidate to support Earths life form. It was shown to have less than one-third of the stellar energy Earth has and may not have the same tidal rotation when it comes to day and night as our planet has. The climate was believed to be dense enough during the day to keep the planet warm but then believed at night it would become cold and so cold it could literally freeze the entire planet.
One scientist by the name of Robin Wordsworth decided to test his hypothesis on this. He and his team developed a new type of computer system that can accurately measure exoplanets climate conditions. The new systems goes a step further and measures exoplanets climatic condition in a three dimension which is unlike the typical systems used to measure climate change here on Earth. The new system has more physical characteristics and measure information on a much broader range when it comes to atmospheric gasses, atmospheric clouds, and atmospheric aerosols.
With further testing the scientists found that Gliese 581 d not only has a dense atmosphere which will hold up against it possibly collapsing but the exoplanet also has a climate that is warm enough to have oceans, clouds and even rainfall. One of the key elements of Gliese 581 d being determined to be a habitable planet is what is known has Rayleigh scattering. Rayleigh scattering is the phenomenon that makes the sky blue on Earth. In the Solar System, Rayleigh scattering limits the amount of sunlight a thick atmosphere can absorb, because a large portion of the scattered blue light is immediately reflected back to space. However, as the starlight from Gliese 581 is red, it is almost unaffected. This means that it can penetrate much deeper into the atmosphere, where it heats the planet effectively due to the greenhouse effect of the CO2 atmosphere, combined with that of the carbon dioxide ice clouds predicted to form at high altitudes. Furthermore, the 3D circulation simulations showed that the daylight heating was efficiently redistributed across the planet by the atmosphere, preventing atmospheric collapse on the night side or at the poles. (Sciencedaily.com, 2011)
The other asset about this newly discovered exoplanet is it is only about twenty light-years away. To understand the distance measured in a light year, a light year is how far light travels in one-year and the formula is 9.4607 x 1012 Km (which equals nearly six trillion miles. Even at measuring the distance that Gliese 581 d still makes it one of the closer galactic neighbors.
Even now, if we ever needed to find a new planet to relocate to, this new exoplanet would take the spacecraft that has traveled the furthest in history, Voyager One three-hundred thousand years to arrive there, so don`t get your hopes up just yet but who knows; with the advances in space travel and technology, maybe science will come up with a new space vehicle that can travel to and from the new planet.
Wordsworth and his team continue to study the planet and will continue in the future. Even if say in a few hundred years humans are able to take a trip to Gliese 581 d, since the planet has denser air and thicker clouds than earth; the surface of the planet would turn out to have a murky red twilight appearance and the surface gravity would be twice that of our planet, so humans would have to get used to the new scenery on the new planet.
The other element that scientists are discovering that maybe planets that are close enough to be categorized has a life-supporting planet for us may not need to have the same atmospheric and climatic conditions has earth to be habitable for us.
Sciencedaily.com (May 2011), First Habitable Exoplanet? Climate Simulation Reveals New Candidate That Could Support Earth-Like Life, (www.sciencedaily.com) Retrieved May 19, 2011.