Boring Star = Livelier Planet

June 9, 2007

University of British Columbia astronomer Jaymie Matthews is looking for solar conditions that improve odds of extraterrestrial life.
clipped from www.physorg.com

Approximately 20.5 light years from the Earth, Gliese 581 made the headlines in April 2007 when European scientists discovered a planet, named Gliese 581c. Dubbed “superEarth,” the planet orbits Gliese 581 and could have water — and thus able to support life.
Matthews and his team searched for the subtle dips in the light from the star when the planet’s orbit carried it directly between the star and the Earth
The depth of the dips would help researchers determine the size of the planet Gliese 581c, while the behaviour of the starlight at other times would help astronomers gauge the suitability of Gliese 581 as a “home star,” a star able to sustain life on planets around it.
“The Gliese 581 system is the first to be found — beyond our own Earth — that might have a liveable planet,” said Matthews.
Matthews put Gliese 581 on a six-week scientific stakeout following the April discovery. He will present his findings today at the Canadian Astronomical Society’s annual meeting
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