From “Astronomers find new planet capable of supporting life” (Telegraph, April 27, 2012), we learn, “Astronomers have discovered their “holy grail” – a planet capable of supporting life outside our solar system.” Oh wow!
The planet lies in what they describe as a ‘habitable zone’, neither too near its sun to dry out or too far away which freezes it.
Scientists found the planet, Gliese 667Cc, orbiting around a red dwarf star, 22 light years away from the earth.
The University Göttingen and University of California scientists have calculated the planet recieves ten per cent less light from its red dwarf star than the Earth gets from the Sun.
As the light is in the infrared area, the planet still receives nearly the same amount of energy as the Earth, meaning water could be liquid and surface temperatures could be similar to ours.
It’s four and one half times the mass of Earth, which means that if it has an atmosphere, it will be very dense. And orbiting a red dwarf might mean tidal braking will stop its independent rotation.
So why is it a holy Grail?
Astronomers are hailing the plant as the ‘Holy Grail’ of discoveries, as 20 years ago scientists were still arguing about the existence of planets beyond our solar system.
Actually, they weren’t. Most assumed that such planets existed, but it hadn’t been possible to identify them.
It sounds as though someone is making a bid for continued funding because otherwise Gliese 667Cc would just be interesting in its own right, and not a holy Grail.
And if people keep writing this way, what are they going to call a much better candidate for life, which they may very well find? Better not chuck that thesaurus.