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Habitable Exoplanet

June 15, 2011

Climate modeling has identified the first exoplanet that really could support life.



A best bet for alien life…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists in France have identified the first planet beyond Earth that could support life as we know it. Many candidates have been found in the past. But according to exoplanet researcher Robin Wordsworth, of the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique in Paris, this planet is the first to stand up to a three-dimensional climate model.

ROBIN WORDSWORTH (Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Paris):

And it turns out, in fact, that if it has a dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide, which is a very plausible scenario for a large planet like this, it will be warm enough to have oceans – and hence life.


The planet, called Gliese 581d, is very different from Earth. For starters, one side is permanently lit, and the other is always dark. Yet the model shows that the dense atmosphere would redistribute heat to the dark side. Wordsworth says we’ll have to develop more powerful telescopes to actually look for life there. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.