Thursday

How often have we wondered if there was actually another planet out there that would be very similar to Earth? Sounds like more sci fi material, doesn't it? Well, it turns out that there might just be a planet like this. The name of this planet is named HD85512b and it was discovered orbiting an orange dwarf star in the constellation Vela.

This newly discovered planet is 3.6 times the mass of Earth, and it orbits its parent star at just the right distance for water to be liquid on the planet's surface. Scientists believe is crucial for life as we know it and it is also only 36 light years away from us. So far, HD85512b is only the second rocky planet outside our solar system to be confirmed in its star's (sun) habitable zone. That is a region around a star that's not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist.

If it's location is scaled down to our solar system it is a bit farther out than Venus is to our Sun. At that distance it could be too hot unless there was at least 50% cloud cover which scientists believe is highly possible. At 50 % cloud cover that would reflect enough of the energy back into space to prevent overheating. Earth has 60% cloud cover but in order to have these type of water vapor clouds the newly discovered planet would have to have an atmosphere similar to that of Earth's.
This too is also highly possible. Although scientific models of planet formation predict that planets with more than ten times Earth's mass would have hydrogen and helium dominated atmospheres, smaller worlds like HD85512b are more likely to have nitrogen and oxygen based atmospheres which are more Earthlike.

Besides it's size and location, there are two other reasons in it's favor for potentially harboring life. The first is that it's orbit is nearly circular which provides for stable climate. The second reason is that it's parent star (sun) is older and less active than our Sun. This would reduce the likeliness of electromagnetic storms which would damage the planet's atmosphere. Another interesting point about this planet is the fact that the age of it's solar system is about 5.6 billion years compared to our solar system which is thought to be about 4.6 billion years old. This would allow enough time for life to originate and develop. Where or not that is the case is yet to be determined.

This is an extremely exciting discovery of a planet that could be so similar to our own. But considering the current limits on space travel, there is little chance of getting there too soon. There would also be a few major differences if we could get there. For example it is most likely to be a very muggy, hot place with a gravity that is 1.4 times more than that of our Earth. Still despite all of these issues, this new planet discovery does cause the mind to wonder what could possibly lie ahead?


An artist's rendering of an Earthlike alien planet. Illustration courtesy L. Cal├žada, ESO

Responses to "Discovery of a New Earthlike Planet"

  1. dc2352 says:

    Why do so many people think we are the only o es out there. In the billions of planets circling suns there must be millions of planets supporting life. Some as we know it, some quite different. Why would we be alone in the universe? That's a pretty self centered thought if you ask me.

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