Southern Religion

Hurry to baptise Gliese 581g inhabitants?

The synchronicity was remarkable, as The Reverend Mommy suggested:

This last week, astronomers found a planet that could be seen as within the habitable zone. Close enough for liquid water and plenty of energy from it’s sun. Also within the last couple of weeks was an announcement from the Pope’s astronomer about the baptism of alien souls.

Subject of speculation, that planet is Gliese 581g. About which principal investigator Steven Vogt (leader of the team which discovered the planet) said:

I’m not a biologist, nor do I want to play one on TV. Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100%. I have almost no doubt about it.

Comes Lee Billings, who is a staff editor for Seed magazine, with a bucketful of cold water:

Imagine, for a moment, standing on the surface of Gliese 581g, and you’ll quickly appreciate just how unearthly it is. Its sun, though much smaller than our own, would loom far larger in the massive planet’s sky due to its close proximity, and light would filter down through a thick atmosphere to fall upon a landscape flattened by the world’s stronger gravitational field. But half the globe would never see the sun at all; tidal forces raised by the nearby star would quite likely have sapped the planet’s rotational energy until it spun once for every orbit, so that it perennially showed the same face to its star. One hemisphere would be bathed in light, sputtered by solar flares and harsh ionizing radiation, while the other would be forever shrouded in darkness. Perhaps only the thin ribbon of twilight encircling the planet from pole to pole would be hospitable.

Narrow the road, indeed.

The Gliese 581 planetary system

The orbits of the Gliese 581 planetary system, with circular orbits, excluding outermost planet f.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Science | , , , | Comments Off on Hurry to baptise Gliese 581g inhabitants?