Space News!: A 'Nearby' Habitable Planet And Rogue 'Planets' That Don't Orbit Any Stars

May 18, 2011


I'm mixing two different space-related news stories together for this post. Think of it as combining ingredients to bake something, except, instead of a cake, we wind up with a jumbled mess of WTF. Tasty! First, a "nearby" habitable planet:

A red dwarf star 20 light-years away is again providing hints that it hosts the first definitively habitable planet outside our Solar System.

The planet Gliese 581d is at the colder outer edge of the "Goldilocks zone" in which liquid water can be sustained.

Now a study in Astrophysical Journal Letters suggests its atmosphere may keep things warm enough for water.

And it's only 20-light years away! That's less than 118-trillion miles (~189-trillion km)! That'll only take like, forever to travel to. I'm already pissing my space suit I'm so excited about it! Wanna play I-Spy on the way?! Here, I'll start -- I spy GW opening an airlock and ending this trip pronto. Next up: rogue planets that don't orbit stars.

Japanese astronomers claim to have found free-floating "planets" which do not seem to orbit a star.

They detected evidence of 10 Jupiter-sized objects with no parent star found within 10 Astronomical Units (AU). One AU is equivalent to the distance between our Earth and Sun. Further analysis led them to the conclusion that most of these objects did not have parent stars.

Based on the number of such bodies in the area surveyed, the astronomers then extrapolated that such objects could be extremely common.

Note: the objects aren't actually planets, as 'planet' denotes a celestial body that does orbit a star. These things don't actually have a name yet. But I suggest we call them dingleplanets. And I'm not just saying that with the hopes it'll cheer Pluto up, but I did read in his journal he plans to slingshot himself into the sun.

Exoplanet near Gliese 581 star 'could host life' [bbc]
'Free-floating' planets found with no star in sight [bbc]

Thanks to Turbo the Mechanical Ape, who's convinced all rogue planets are actually Death Stars. And to Brittany, who's agreed to colonize a planet with me provided we don't actually have any kids. But we can still go through the motions, right?

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