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Scientists discover planet capable of supporting life, Richard Branson calls dibs on it

Joseph L. Flatley
September 30, 2010
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A team of planet hunters from UC Santa Cruz (not to be confused with Dog The Bounty Hunter) have found a planet three times the size of our own that might support life. Scientists have been using the HIRES spectrometer on the Keck I Telescope to keep an eye on the Gliese 581 red dwarf star in the constellation Libra for about 11 years now, and among its many virtues have learned that the planet Gliese 581g has the potential for life. Indeed, it is being billed as "the first potentially habitable exoplanet," meaning that it's in "the zone" where it's neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water. Although it's rather Earth-like in some respects, there are some stunning differences: for instance, the planet doesn't spin on its axis, so one side is always dark (and probably 25 degrees below zero) while the other side is probably rather pleasant, or "shirt-sleeve weather," as one of the discoverers, Steven Vogt, put it. Indeed, he goes on to estimate that "chances for life on this planet are 100 percent." Those are pretty good odds! There's no word on when Virgin Galactic will be offering vacation packages to this hit destination, or even when it will be feasible to make the 20 light year voyage. Artist's rendition after the break.



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