from the M-class dept
Just as the rumors of a UN-appointed alien ambassador
are settling down, astrophysicists have reported the discovery of the first potentially life-sustaining planet
outside of our solar system. This conclusion is based on 11 years of observations and some estimates that place this newly-found exoplanet in a region that would allow for the existence of liquid water and an atmosphere on Gliese 581g. However, that doesn't necessarily mean water or an atmosphere actually exist there.
The more important news here is that this type of planet can be found in a relatively straightforward manner -- which will likely lead to many, many more discoveries of similar planets in the universe. However, instead of focusing on that, reporters and one of the scientists involved are hyping up the possibility
of life. Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, optimistically states
"Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it"
It seems a bit unscientific to project a 100% chance, especially given that our own solar system has more than one planet that could be classified as potentially habitable -- and we've yet to confirm that life exists (or existed) on any other planet (or moon) that orbits our sun. And before we start charting a course towards Gliese 581 to meet up with new life forms, perhaps we should wait until a few
more exoplanets are detected with similar characteristics.