Looks like I’ve got to do a followup on Gliese 581g. Some updated stories have said it might not exist, after all.
Discover Magazine seems to have it wrong; the International Astronomical Union does not meet every year, but every 3 years. They do, though, have plenty of press conferences, and the like. At their most recent meeting in Italy, some Swiss astronomers said they were unable to conclude whether Gliese 581g actually exists.
They were quick to ensure they couldn’t prove it didn’t exist—but that’s because they don’t think anyone in the world has equipment powerful enough to detect whether or not it’s there.
The way it’s done right now, we can only detect planets on far away stars by detecting very minute wiggles in the star itself, from the tiny amount of gravity they exert on the star they orbit. According to these folks, this theoretical planet is too small and too far away—we can only really detect gas giants and other really massive planets with any certainty.
Gliese 581g has gotten a lot of attention, and way too much hype by mainstream news as being a very real thing.
But to put things into perspective, even if it is Earth’s twin planet, it’s 20 light years away. This video has a droll voice, but the guy behind it is really smart (David McConville of Elumenati) and breaks it down for you.
Numbers. The point is, take this possible discovery for what it is: really interesting, but not something we’re likely to see actually colonized or even touched upon in our lives.
But with the way things are developing, technologically, we’ll probably find out if it actually exists fairly soon.
- Discover Magazine’s article about its existence, and another about its true distance–which I didn’t cover on the last post.
- ScienceNOW on its existence
Edit: Adding this video, uploaded to YouTube just a couple days ago.