First Habitable Planet Close To Being Confirmed By Scientists

05/17/2011 10:17 am ET | Updated Jul 17, 2011

Scientists may be just steps from discovering the first habitable planet beyond our own.

Gliese 581d, a planet orbiting the red-dwarf star Gliese, may be the first real candidate for human expansion. That is, if it didn't take 3,000 lifetimes to get there, according to Science Daily.

581d is the third candidate for becoming the first hospitable exoplanet from the Gliese system, but the previous two candidates have both been ruled out. Gliese 581e was ruled too cold, and 581g turned out to be entirely nonexistent.

In order to determine that this planet was actually a viable candidate, the scientists behind the new report used a new computer model, which uses methods similar to those used to measure Earth's own climate, to analyze the atmosphere of 581d.

There are no days on Gliese 581d; one side is perpetually light and one side is perpetually dark. People thought this would mean that the night side would be perpetually frozen. But a new study by the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique at the Institute Pierre Simon Laplace found that because of the local star's red light that penetrates deep into the heavy carbon atmosphere, the planet regulates heat quite well. Downside: It will always be a sort of red-hued dusk. And gravity is twice as strong, meaning it won't be too pleasant to walk around. But at least we'll be able to live there. The problem, as with most things in space, is the distance. At 20 light years away, it would take 300,000 years to get there.

But maybe we should be trying to get there a lot faster.

A new study (completely unrelated to the Gliese 581d report) has determined that at our current pace of using resources we're going to need two Earths by 2030. While Gliese 581d seems a bit far as a candidate, the Living Planet Report isn't actually suggesting we search out another planet, but is instead emphasizing how quickly we're depleting Earth's resources and highlighting the urgent need to change our course.

But with over 2 billion potential alien earths out there, there has to be at least one backup for Earth, right?