A few days ago, the European Southern Observatory discovered the first possible Earth-like planet orbiting another star, Gliese 581 (also known as “HO Librae”). Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star — about 1/3 the size of our own sun, and about 100 times dimmer. HO Librae shines red in the sky above the the newly-discovered planet, “Gliese 581 c.” The planet has a year of only 13 days. Because it is so close, its sun would appear to be more than 4 times bigger than our sun, even though it is a smaller star. There is also known to be a neptune-like planet in the Gliese 581 system, “Gliese 581 b,” and scientists suspect there is at least one more planet as well (“Gliese 581 d”).
Gliese 581 c is five times as massive as the Earth and lies in it’s sun’s habitable zone, meaning that it is just the right distance for there to be liquid water on the surface. Further details on the planet are educated guesses, but the staff at the European Southern Observatory have put forth a few.