Given that our main flagship title involves a man with a Moon for a head we here at Beyond the Bunker have inevitably started (as we pretty much always have) looking skywards. Every Saturday Dan posts up an interesting article about something space or science related. When ever I might feel like it I will post up something space or science related.
For some time now the space agencies have been scouring the skies to locate an exoplanet that has the right ingredients to harbour life. The rocky ‘Exoplanet’ Gliese 581d meets key requirements for sustaining Earth-like life, including rainfall and possibly even watery oceans. The planet orbits a Red Dwarf star similarly called Gliese 581, on its outer fringes called the ‘Goldilocks Zone’, the part of a solar system where the bears are out – and also, perhaps less pivotally- where the temperature is not so hot that water boils away, nor so cold that water is perpetually frozen. Though, even though it might be technically habitable, don’t start looking at timeshares just yet as it Gliese 581d would not make comfortable dwelling for humans.
Gravity is twice what it is on Earth, doubling the weight of anyone standing on the surface, and the atmosphere is dense with carbon dioxide. It’s big though; with a mass 5.6 times that of the Earth, Gliese 581d is classified as a ‘Super-Earth’.
It took scientist by surprise as it had already been dismissed as being uninhabitable. But new computer models with the capacity to simulate extraterrestrial climates have revealed it and confirmed its status, rather unceremoniously to ‘alive’. Like Homer Simpson when he was moved to the better hospital.
“This discovery is important because it’s the first time climate modellers have proved that the planet is potentially habitable, and all observers agree that the exoplanet exists,” said Dr Robin Wordsworth, a member of the French team from the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace in Paris. “If you look at the history of the search for habitable planets, there’s been at least two instances so far when scientists have announced that a habitable world has been discovered, only to have the claim contradicted later, either by climate experts or by other observers.”
Don’t pack your trunks and bikini bottoms just yet though as Gliese 581d receives about 30% of the sunlight Earth does from its local star. While the temperature seems to be too cold to support liquid water, the atmosphere’s high production of greenhouse gases significantly heats the planet. It looks like its ‘tidally locked’ too, meaning that one side always faces the sun, which’d give it a permanent dayside and nightside. One for Nomadic Greenlanders then.
This is far from an exact science, effectively going on sine 1995 and relies on miniscule objects ‘wobbling’ stellar light. From this wobble- scientists start making best informed guess attempts. Its far from accurate though. Gliese 581 has already been associated with another ‘habitable’ planet known as ‘Zarmina’s World’ (Gliese 581g), after its observers announced it had roughly the same mass as Earth’s and was also close to the ‘Goldilock’s Zone’. This was deflated somewhat as it has since been discounted by many, with some experts suspecting that Gliese 581g may not even exist. Huh?