Zarmina's World – First Earth-like planet?
A team of planet hunters led by astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington has announced the discovery of an Earth-size planet (three times the mass of Earth) orbiting a nearby star at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the star's "habitable zone," where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface.
If confirmed, this would be the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered and the first strong case for a potentially habitable one.
The authors write:
"That a system harboring a potentially habitable planet has been found this nearby, and this soon in the relatively early history of precision radial velocity surveys, indicates that the fraction of stars with potentially habitable planets is likely to be substantial... could well be on the order of a few tens of percent."
"If the local stellar neighborhood is a representative sample of the galaxy as a whole, our Milky Way could be teeming with potentially habitable planets (emphasis mine)."
The parent sun, Gliese 581 (a.k.a. Wolf 562, and HO Lib as a variable) is a tad brighter than 11th magnitude, so you'd be able to pick it up in binoculars. It lies at RA 15:19:27, Dec -07°43.3′, which is in northern Libra.
If you simply *have* to have a star chart right away, point your browser to the Variable Star Plotter on the AAVSO's website and key in "HO Lib".
When you next stand outside at dusk looking towards Venus, look some 20° to the right of the brilliant Evening Star (if you're in the southern hemisphere); you'll be gazing in the general direction of Gliese 581 and its planetary system.
And there just may be someone gazing back at you.
nothing more to see. please move along.