Gliese 581C: Our New Home?
Among the other stars, the following stand out:
γ Librae, that’s an orange star, in the north-central part of the constellation;
HD 140283, which has an incredible age of about 14 billion years, so it’s useful to set limits on the age of the universe;
Gliese 581, a red dwarf. Perhaps, the most special one.
On April 24 2007, it was discovered an exoplanet in the Libra constellation.
The discovery was announced by a team of astronomers from the University of Geneva, Switzerland.
At that time, the group was using the HARPS instrument, installed in 2002 on the 3.6 m telescope of ESO La Silla observatory in Chile.
HARPS actually became operational in February 2003, and since then it was used to detect exoplanets, based on measurements of the variations of the radial velocities of stars subject to gravitational forces of bodies rotating around them.
Therefore, HARPS, which stands for High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet, was an amazing high precision spectrograph for radial velocities.
Astronomers that happened to use HARPS, were very lucky.
However, the planet was called Gliese 581c, because it is part of the Gliese 581 star system, i.e. it orbits around Gliese 581.
As we said in the intro, Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star, that lies about 20 light-years distant from us.
Do you know what a red dwarf is?
A red dwarf is a very small and cool type of star.
Red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in the Milky Way, at least in the neighbourhood of the Sun.
So here comes the big answer: could Gliese 581c become our nem home?
Well, I mean, it’s a hard question.
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